Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
WildSnow HQ local news first. Everyone, if you can make it to the 5Point Film Festival here in Carbondale you’ll be glad you did. I know the organizers, and can testify that they’ve put together a very compelling mix of film and personality that could possibly break the mold when it comes to outdoor sport movie fests. May 8-10, details here. Plan some Elk Range backcountry skiing for the morning, enjoy the festival during the day and evening!
I was over on the NOAA website getting weather beta for more backcountry skiing adventures, and noticed their take on greenhouse gas increases for 2007. Interesting reading about the large increase in carbon dioxide. I’d imagine all that CO2 is due at least in part to all the talk about global warming, and much more to China’s efforts at massive industrialization.
The subject of CO2 brings me to the recent “green” issue of Time Magazine. Did you read their large article, How to Win the War on Global Warming? Basically, it was an evangelical screed about how we need to spend a ton of money to cap our own carbon emissions (“2% to 3% of gdp a year for some time”!!). But read between the lines and study the issue, and you know that even if we reduce quite a bit, doing so will still make make no significant difference in climate change trends — unless countries such as China go along. The article mentioned nothing about how China would be compelled to join the band, other than to imply we as the U.S. have some sort of leadership position. What an incredible crock. We can barely make a dent in world hunger (due to geo politics), we continue to let Coors Lite be manufactured, and we’re supposed to take a leadership role for China? I love my country, but let’s be realistic.
Those French/English (sorry for the insult) bloggers over at PistHors.com just published an nice take on the multiple avalanche burial controversy. For those who’ve been sleeping: The sometimes catty hissing in the avy beacon industry is about whether beacons with fancy multiple burial functions are all that necessary. Are they worth the price, lack of battery life, durability issues, bulk, and complexity? Backcountry Access, makers of the Tracker, have been saying that perhaps multiple burial features are not all that important. Meanwhile, others in the industry say BCA is full to the gills with avy debris and that beacons should be whiz-bang capable of finding numerous buried victims.
The whole multiple burial controversy is really what I’d call a reality strike. Fact one: most buried avalanche victims must be dug out within 15 minutes or they perish. Fact two: digging a person out can easily reach the point of physical impossibility if only one person is on the shovel. Fact three: Even early analog beacons could be used for multiple burials, so some of this argument is hair splitting and has to do more with current emphasis in design, rather than absolutes. Fact four: If you indeed have a multiple burial, because shoveling is so slow and difficult there is a good chance those left standing will be looking at a nearly impossible recovery scenario even if their fancy beacons can find the victims.
PistHors points out that stats show most multiple burials happen while groups are climbing. I know in our case that’s almost the only time we do much (if any) exposure of more than one person to avy danger. We’re not alone in our approach, so PistHors makes a good point. Thus, behavior of groups while climbing is the key to the multiple burial issue. If most backcountry ski groups could simply spread out more while on the uphill in avalanche terrain (and always ski one at a time when exposed), I’d bet the multiple burial issue would indeed become statistically insignificant. Yeah, funny thing how it’s up to us to stay alive.
And what’s going on with those list-tickers trying to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks? As we blogged a few days ago, Ted Mahone recently completed his quest with a new route on Capitol Peak. Others hot on the trail include Crested Butte skiers Frank Konsella and Sean Crossen. Both have only a handful of peaks to go. The rough part of doing this is that peaks such as Capitol that are only in prime condition a few days out of the season, and most of us involved in the sport prefer descents that feel like we really skied the peak from the summit, rather than descents that require “billy goating” or even downclimbing extensive sections that lack snow. (Some of that is expected, but only in tiny doses.) Thus, the game Frank and Sean are playing can be nerve wracking and even expensive as they travel around the state trying to encounter the perfect combination of partners, snow conditions, weather, health, and so many other factors. But if it was easy…
One other thing: Don’t forget that this is Aspen Highlands’ last weekend of their amazing late spring opening. Last weekend Saturday was their second biggest day of the season! Let’s keep that going by showing up and supporting them by at least skiing a few runs and having your pass scanned. Or go big and taste some of the amazing backcountry you can access from the top of the resort. To whet your appetite: