Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Know Snow?

I have learned that the more I learn about the outdoors, the less I know.  Over the last few months I've put a serious effort into learning about snow and avalanche awareness for those travel in the back country.   Of course I had some informal training but if I were caught in a bad situation like an avalanche, time is of essence and knowing what to do is absolutely critical. So I took the plunge and attended the Summit Country Rescue Group's Avalanche Seminar.  That piqued my interest enough to continue on with an Avalanche 1 course put on by Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol.

 Avalanche victims rely on companions for rescue, NOT RESCUE TEAMS and it's not just back country skiers that need to know how to survive in avalanche territory.  Avalanches have killed climbers, snowshoe enthusiasts, and snowmobilers.  One of the latest avalanche accidents in Colorado that resulted in a fatality involved snowmobilers that triggered an avalanche when they were walking after they got their snowmobiles stuck. 

Here are some basic things I've learned.

1.)  Check the weather and avalanche report.  The Colorado Avalanche Information Center posts very accurate forecasts and rates avalanche danger.  If the avalanche danger is high, figure out something else fun to do, go ski at the resort or snowshoe in a park.  The latest warning came on a day where three people died in various parts of the state.  CAIC doesn't put out reports for their safety, they do it for yours.  Read them and often and have a good idea of whats been going on in the area.

2.) Have some back up plans.  You can (and should) look at a map before you go play. Make a few alternative routes.  This may also be helpful when weather changes on you and avalanche conditions/likelihood changes.

3.) Look up.  If you think you are safe because you are in a flat open area under a 30 -45 degree slope, you're not safe.  Be sure to stay out of avalanche paths.

4.)  Always question your motives.  Don't let some fresh powder cloud your judgement.  Look for reasons NOT to go.

5.) Ski with people who have about the same level of assumed risk as you.  All should agree that they want to ski that area and if one person doesn't keep looking.  It's not worth it to go with people who may get you into trouble by making poor decisions like skiing above you or ignoring set plans.

It's safe to say that I've become very interested in snow science and the more I know the more interest I have.  After listening to some of the CAIC guys speak I was completely jealous of their jobs.  I had no idea colleges offered degrees in snow science AND they do it right here in Colorado! I was very impressed with all of the instructors both from the Summit County Rescue Group Seminar and the Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol and would highly recommend either group!  Of course it's not just about knowing but also experience.  I'm excited to get out in the back country and put some of my new gained knowledge to use!

Happy Adventuring!

A few links to pictures from our Avy 1 class:

Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol Avy 1 Class
Facebook link to pictures

1 comment:

Sharms said...

Thanks for sharing. :-) I did see in the last two days 3 avalanche stories. How scary.