Book Review — Avalanche Aware — John Moynier


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | July 5, 2006      

(Editor’s note: While published some time ago, this is still a useful field guide, perfect for those new to snow safety.)

Through the years, most avalanche safety books have reminded me of my high-school math text — a book with useful knowledge but one I wouldn’t lug around anywhere but in the hallway of Aspen High School (where I enjoyed my teenage formative years.)

In contrast, John Moynier’s handbook of avalanche safety, Avalanche Aware, is compact and lugable. Moynier’s book begins with a well illustrated primer covering the fickle beast’s many guises, from slab to powder to ice.

A few pages later we cut to the gut. John’s system of evaluation is succinct. Simply put, he divides many factors into a triad: Terrain, Weather, and Snowpack. Details are complete, and include crucial caveats such as the weakening effect even a light rain has on the snowpack.

On to avalanche avoidance. He writes, “Safe routefinding is more than just deciding which side of a tree, creek or ridge you should travel on.” That is well said, and imparts the importance of mastering skills such as group dynamics, self evaluation, and map reading. Indeed, avalanche safety should be incentive for backcountry skiers to master every aspect of winter outdoorsmanship.

John’s snow science coverage is refreshingly brief. Frankly, I’ve grown tired of efforts by authors and avalanche safety instructors to take a lab egghead’s approach to safety. For starters, it’s not easy to find a safe study plot you’re sure has the same snowpack as that of the slide path you question. Moreover, even snow scientists with the brains of Einstein can’t predict exactly enough for 100% safe skiing. Human error is a problem, and wind, sun, or rain may change the snowpack in minutes.

Moynier avoids nerding. He keeps bigwords like “equitemperature” to a minimum, and relates snow conditions back to real life events such as abandoning your trip if massive spring slides are likely because of warm nights.

In the book’s chapter about snow testing Moynier does an excellent job of describing tests such as the rutschblock (slide-block in English) and shovel shear. Such trials add grist to your decision mill, but can devolve to crystal ball gazing — especially if they’re done on snow that fails to reflect the true nature of snow on the slide paths in question. E.g, one of my avalanche gurus said, “the only test worth beans is done on belay in the starting zone of the path you plan on skiing.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but you can fool yourself if you don’t. I do know my guru is still alive.

Thankfully, John says “To be on the safe side, treat all test data as inconclusive and back it up with other observations.”

Avalanche Aware distills a complex subject to essentials anyone can understand — given a bit of motivation. Consider being buried alive; crushed in a crypt of cold white marble. Got your attention? Memorize John Moynier’s book.



IF YOU'RE HAVING TROUBLE VIEWING SITE, TRY WHITELISTING IN YOUR ADBLOCKER, OTHERWISE PLEASE CONTACT US USING MENU ABOVE, OR FACEBOOK.
[yuzo_related]

Comments

  Your Comments


  Recent Posts




Facebook Twitter Google Instagram Youtube

WildSnow Twitter Feed



 



  • Blogroll & Links


  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to WildSnow.com and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version