10 Common Mistakes in Avalanche Safety – ISSW 2016

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 7, 2016      

Todd Guyn (25 years as guide with CMH, currently their Mountain Safety Manager) took advantage of his situation to run a questionnaire on more than 100 helicopter ski guides. Idea, have the guides essentially vote on “most common missteps” they made as avalanche safety practitioners. This was easily one of the better presentations at ISSW.

(Note: Todd called his presentation “10 common missteps of avalanche practitioners.” With due respect to Todd, I’ll go ahead and use the word “mistakes,” as well as figuring we are all “practitioners.”)

Wind picks up, snowfall rate changes, morning sun hits the slope, are you aware?

Wind picks up, snowfall rate changes, morning sun hits the slope, are you aware?

Here is Todd’s list, with commentary from yours truly based on Todd’s talk:

10. Misapplication of Terrain
Terrain is “pushed” due to guide’s client expectations or decision makers simply being lazy and not analytical. While the term “playground” if often bandied about in regard to backcountry terrain, we are not in a “playground.” Sure, a swing set could kill you if you really tried. An avalanche path is not a swing set.

9. Being Impatient with Conditions
One of the top habits or practices of backcountry skiers with good safety records is patience. Todd took the long view on patience, reminding us that when it comes to waiting for appropriate conditions with a given run, sometimes patience could mean waiting as much as months or even years for that special day. In my view, Colorado is particularly subject to this sort of thing. But if you take the long view of terrain, perhaps any place in the world has backcountry ski runs that are only in condition a few days a year, or less.

8. Trying Too Hard to Outwit Avalanche Problems
I’d call this “over thinking.” According to Todd, “sometimes there is not a solution.” What this said to me is sometimes you simply have to cut bait. That could even go to the level of staying home, for example during a huge storm that not only ramps up avy danger to extreme levels, but closes roads and perhaps even closes ski lifts.

7. Acting Too Much on Emotion
Yaaaaaaawhooooooooooo. Need I say more? Yes, I do. Sometimes you’ll hear talk about “listening to the mountain” and “being open to your inner feelings.” I agree those are valid ingredients in decision making — until they cause you to rely too much on emotion and not enough on cognition. Todd’s guides rated this as #7, which means it’s important.

6. Not Being Vigilant to Changes in the Environment
Fast temperature changes, blowing snow, sunrise… Sometimes changes are obvious, but we must be vigilent. Heavy snowfall and blowing snow is one area where I’ve been caught with my knickers down more than once. Likewise, morning sun warming an easterly face faster than I anticipated.

5. Letting Familiarity Influence your Mindset
Clearly something the CMH guides would have to deal with, as they’re skiing the same runs hundreds of times. As for myself and the ski touring public I observe worldwide, same issue. Many of us do go back to the same places over and over again. One way to fight resulting complacency is to carry a map in your mind of every even remotely possible avalanche path in your home area. Get in the habit of picturing those paths as you ski, so you practice behaviors such as stopping in verified safe areas and working around trigger zones. One common result of familiarity is for groups to begin stopping en masse while still exposed. Put the kibosh on that, it is toxic behavior.

4. Information Overload
Today’s helicopter ski guides appear to definitely have a problem with this. Observed at ISSW, the proliferation of GPS tracking and record keeping has resulted in reams of data. We casual ski tourers might not have so much trouble with info overdose. Yet, perhaps you dig three pits in a day, memorize the avalanche forecast, and have a new airbag pack you want to fool around with. Or how about that new beacon you bought, with LCD menus you could dig through for hours? Perhaps you might have a little too much information bouncing around inside your skull? Keep it simple, prioritize.

3. Underestimating Consequence
I’m glad this was in the top 3 of what Todd’s guides came up with. In my view, it might be number one. We see it over and over again. Folks are out for a fun day in the mountains and get involved in something tragic they clearly did not anticipate. Read the avalanche reports, underestimating consequences will be there. For example, it took me all of 30 seconds to find this quip from a Colorado report: “…small avalanche, but had high consequences because of the extremely steep and exposed terrain.”

2. Underplaying of Uncertainty
Sound like the title of a philosophy lecture? I’d call this “over confidence” or “lack of humility.” With current state of avalanche hazard evaluation, we often don’t really know much about what’s going on under our feet. Being humble regarding our meager view of things helps compensate. Todd had a quote from Mark Twain that perhaps brings this home:

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” -Mark Twain

1. Lack of Communications
“A factor in every accident!” according to Todd. I’d tend to agree not just with skiing but in general mountain living. You can trace nearly any avalanche incident back to some sort of communication issue. For example, skiers knock an avalanche down on a road. Perhaps better communication about conditions would have caused them to take more care. Or, consider a group that bunches up in a slide path and gets taken out, 2-way radios to enable communication without physically grouping? Take this all the way to basics like forgetting your daily dose of weather radio. Indeed, communication.

(During my research for this post I noticed that since 2011 CMH has issued 2-way radios to all their guests. I’ve always wondered if guides should do that with their clients. Apparently CMH thinks doing so is wise. Another vote for using radios, check out our big blog post covering radio options.

Todd closed by relating that perhaps “humility” was the key to it all. He said that the more experienced guides he’s spoken with over the years seem to always exhibit an obviously humble attitude about dealing with avalanche safety issues — presumably most of the issues listed above. “Being humble” may sound easy, yet in all honesty I’ll admit that when endorphins flow or adrenaline pumps, my “humble” probably gets pushed down under things I wouldn’t be proud of if I did get involved in an avalanche accident.

How about you? Which of Todd’s “10 Mistakes” might you make?


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43 Responses to “10 Common Mistakes in Avalanche Safety – ISSW 2016”

  1. Trent October 7th, 2016 11:06 am

    A subset of #5. Familiarity plus false hope in choosing something more moderate than originally planned. In other words, if the objective was steeper, with more wind loading above more serious terrain traps, I will select another route which, while less dangerous in many ways, could still be dangerous. I tell myself, I’m only going to ski X today, because Y would be irresponsible. But X is still iffy.
    Also, I’ll pat myself on the back if my plan is clearly safer than others in the lodge. Just because others are twice as stupid as I am doesn’t mean my plan is safe.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 October 7th, 2016 11:33 am

    Good points Trent, I’ve done the “false hope” thing myself, now that I think about it. Ha, if someone is twice as stupid as me, yeah, I’m still stupid according to the math (smile). Lou

  3. JCoates October 7th, 2016 12:02 pm

    Good post Lou. Thanks for sharing. I’m currently unemployed and just sitting around waiting for the snow to fall right now so getting philosophical…

    It seems to me that frequent travel to places you don’t know probably makes you a better, safer, ski-mountaineer too. You mentioned always skiing the same favorite runs in the same mountain ranges and this is great for finding the hidden “gems” that the tourists don’t know about. You can also progress slowly as you work up to that route that may only be in condition one or two days/year/decade. But at the same time I think this can make you complacent and cause you to lose focus when you ski the same known mountain range over and over. I think one of the reasons that makes world-class guides so good–in addition to just putting in the days–is that they can also see how the mountains behave in different parts of the world.

    When I ski or climb with a guide its usually not something I wouldn’t be capable of doing on my own if I was familiar with the area it’s just something beyond my comfort level when I don’t know the route or snow pack. Skiing with a guide is great, but at the same time I probably don’t progress in self-improvement as much as I would if I was trying to work up to it on my own. I think we all tend to go into cruise mode when someone else is breaking trail or climbing lead.

    Not sure where I was going with that…Oh yeah…actually, I find that I make the biggest advances in self-improvement/mountain know-how when I travel to different ranges and try routes that I am unfamiliar with–even though I tend to be much more risk averse on these routes due to the unknown. Travel (the unknown) probably makes you safer.

  4. Noah Howell October 7th, 2016 3:09 pm

    This is great Lou. Thanks for sharing. All great reminders, especially this time of year. I was lucky enough to take my level 2 avy from Tom Kimbrough and Bret Kobernick (Utah Avy Forecasters/Legends). We were all hungry students looking for “knowledge” and black and white answers and knowing the exact formulas so we could avoid getting smoked. It became comical how often their answers were, “I don’t know” and “that depends”. We couldn’t pin them down, they were deeply aware that there are so many variables that one almost never really “KNOWS” snow.

    Safe turns this season!

  5. Matt Kinney October 7th, 2016 8:50 pm

    Good stuff. Still think “Ignoring Obvious Clues” is #1″, but the other observations are interesting,

    Pretty sure Canada’s heli-ops require airbags for guides and clients. That’s another good thing. Not so much here yet. Glad they made their survey public.

    I did ISSW once and it was pretty good stuff. Thanks for the reports.

  6. Dave Field October 8th, 2016 12:44 pm

    Great post! Good to get the conversation going as we all gear up for the upcoming season. The common thread seems to be to remain humble and acknowledge the uncertainty inherent in evaluating avalanche risk. Always question your decisions, communicate and review with your group and when in doubt, concentrate on finding something fun to do at a lower risk level.

  7. Wookie October 8th, 2016 1:33 pm

    Sometimes there is no reasonable solution….this should be repeated often. One thing I’ve noticed as avalanche training has become widespread is how accident mitigation has transformed into danger management. What I mean is that often I see folks with training attempting to “outsmart” the danger….when in reality, they are simply trading sure-fire death for a roulette match.
    If you’re going to backcountry ski, the reality is that many days, you’re going to be skiing the equivalent of the bunny slope – or not at all. Everything else is rolling the dice.

  8. Lou Dawson 2 October 9th, 2016 8:21 am

    Hi Wookie, indeed, I think we see that quite a bit here in Colorado, and I’m of course guilty. I’ve mellowed out quite a bit but in my early days I thought I could outwit it all (smile). Mistake.

    8. Trying Too Hard to Outwit Avalanche Problems

  9. Michael October 9th, 2016 12:48 pm

    Excellent post!

  10. See October 9th, 2016 7:59 pm

    Sorry to keep bringing up the pernicious effects of skiing for the video audience, but “outsmarting” the conditions can make for some great footage.

  11. See October 9th, 2016 8:02 pm

    And the video audience can be real or imaginary.

  12. VT skier October 10th, 2016 7:38 am

    Great post,
    Regarding communications
    I skied with a certain Heli Ski operation out of Revelstoke, and they did issue two way radios to each client, and also told us the helicopter pilots would be on the same frequency too.
    We all had Airbag packs issued to us. My ski partner and I had just completed a 3 day Avy Course up at Rogers Pass, but weren’t allowed to use our own beacons..they would only let us use their BCA Tracker beacons.

    Great day of skiing with Greg Hill, as our guide.

  13. VT skier October 10th, 2016 7:48 am

    I meant the Heli operation in Revelstoke wouldn’t let us use our own beacons on the day of guided skiing.
    We had just completed an Avy Course, using our own beacons at Rogers Pass, but had to use the issued BCA Trackers..

  14. Lou Dawson 2 October 10th, 2016 8:13 am

    Clear VT. It’s interesting to me how the commercial operators keeping adding on the safety equipment. Looks good for now but one wonders if after a while the clients will even be able to get out of the helicopter, or if client training will take a whole day!

    Curious, did they require helmets? And what about ski binding adjustments and verification of release settings?

    ‘best, Lou

  15. Trent October 10th, 2016 8:20 am

    Wookie/Lou, I wonder if the answer isn’t just to adjust your definition of fun. The last time I skied 20 degree powder, it was wicked fun. Maybe tough to brag about the day at the bar, but still really fun. And guilt free. When everything else is dangerous, why not ski low angle, out of the run off zone?

  16. Ben W October 10th, 2016 8:40 am

    I’m with you Trent. If your only goal is to get rad, you’d better spend a lot of days at the resort. If your only goal is to get rad in the backcountry, then you are at risk of falling into a dangerous pattern. I find it hard to complain about low angle pow turns in a beautiful spot.

  17. Carl Dowdy October 10th, 2016 9:20 am

    Thanks for sharing Lou. To address an earlier post and answer your question with respect to CMH, there is no blanket requirement that Canadian heli operators require air bag packs for guests or guides. At CMH, a guest may rent an air bag pack (or just a canister), bring their own, or go without. At CMH helmets are not required for guests, except for a few trips. Most guests do not bring their own skis, in which case bindings are set as skis are fitted.

  18. Buck October 10th, 2016 9:22 am

    Lou “one wonders if after a while the clients will even be able to get out of the helicopter, or if client training will take a whole day!”

    can’t get out of the heli because of a slimmed down airbag, a radio, and because you’re carrying their beacon instead of yours? are you serious?

    are you ridiculing this because you believe those safety measures aren’t worth it?

    you’ve spent many pages here extolling the virtues of radios for safety, yet you ridicule a heli op for wanting all of their clients to have one?

    you spend pre season blog posts reminding everyone to check their beacons/batteries/range yet ridicule the heli op for wanting to ensure that their clients’ beacons work? I’ve never been in a guided group beacon check where at least one clients beacon didn’t have some kind of problem. better to draw from a stock of beacons that you know have been tested and maintained under your control.

    these are obvious low hanging fruit in terms of safety improvement yet you choose to ridicule them?

    maybe number eleven in your list of avalanche safety mistakes should be :

    “being a cynical ass severely lessens the ability to learn from and address the mistakes listed above”

  19. Lou Dawson 2 October 10th, 2016 10:25 am

    Jeez Buck, slow down. My opinion is that in any area of life, things can get out of hand in terms of safety equipment and procedures getting in the way. That’s my point. Thus, I do wonder. When I was guiding, I had quite a few clients for whom saddling with an airbag, 2-way radio and beacon, along with making sure their helmet worked with their jacket hood and backpack, along with checking their ski bindings for proper function and adjustment, would have required at least a half day of training, likely more, and perhaps confused things. My point is in wondering outloud if there is a limit; a point where the safety equipment becomes too cumbersome and actually perhaps even becomes a safety issue in of itself.

    If I’m a cynical ass so be it, but in this case I think my point is misconstrued.

    What do you think? Is there a point where a heli ski client might be so bundled up in gear they’re like an astronaut on a space walk, only much less functional? Perhaps not now, but eventually?

    P.S., what pops into my mind is the idea of combining Avalung and airbag pack. I’ve always thought that was perhaps a valid idea, but what stops me is the thought of fumbling with both. Again, imagine if we had guided clients with that combo? IMHO, that would clearly be getting a bit too complex.


  20. Lou Dawson 2 October 10th, 2016 10:34 am

    Carl, thanks for the comment. That’s super interesting that CMH doesn’t require helmets. After all the rabid helmet hype… In any case, my understanding is the CMH safety record is exceptional, thus safety items such as airbags and helmets might not be statistically viable. Likewise, I do remember when friends went up there and all clients were on rental gear.

    This illustrates an idea I do tend to gloss over when equipment blogging seduces me. That of accident prevention instead of after-the-fact mitigation.


  21. atfred October 10th, 2016 10:40 am

    Personally, I would want to use my own gear, as I’m very familiar with it’s operation – someone else’s gear, not so much.

  22. Brehm October 10th, 2016 11:43 am

    To the point there could be TOO much safety gear, as a SAR pro I couldn’t agree more. Cell phones and selfie goals have displaced both common and mountain sense, all too often. I still love to tell the tale about the day Hardesty asked our Level 1 class to hand him their beacons before identifying and then using our own route thru some “interesting” terrain. A lesson I will never forget, or tire of sharing.

  23. Lou Dawson 2 October 10th, 2016 3:32 pm

    Real life example is speed in alpinism. Guys carrying nearly nothing on big alpine faces can arguably be safer than groups carrying full kit, due to duration of exposure to hazards, and available energy. On the other hand, anything can be taken to impractical or irresponsible extremes. Lou

  24. Ryan October 10th, 2016 4:21 pm

    I am perplexed in terms of #5. It seems to me that most of the modern avalanche management policies at a ski resort are based on knowledge gained from historical experience. Ski resort avalanche experts almost always are touted as being local terrain experts with decades of familiarity with the terrain. Also if you look at guide services, they unanimously tout their expertise and terrain familiarity as safety advantages.
    I would gander that if for the 2017/2018 season all resorts made a new avalanche plan based on zero historical knowledge, then a lot of people would die.

    I think the point is well made in the sense that you should never get too comfortable, but knowing and understanding historical slide tendencies of terrain is IMO way more valuable than what you don’t know. If a slope features natural releases with regularity in conjunction certain snow conditions you should absolutely keep that in mind. Facts are facts. What you don’t know is exactly that. You can’t count on anything you don’t know. You can only dig so many pits or guess so closely about what exactly is under 10 feet of snow.

    I believe it is much safer to frequently ski the same terrain zones and become very familiar with them. Making a study of terrain has to be safer than to treat everything like a blank slate. Sure there are always surprises, but I would play odds based on historical data/real experience rather than the odds based on a guessing game any day.

  25. See October 10th, 2016 7:29 pm

    I have enjoyed some excellent guided skiing where we were offered air bag packs. On these occasions I also had my own standalone avalung, and decided to use both. I did feel a bit like an astronaut, but I quickly felt familiar enough with the setup that I suspect I could have deployed the air bag without thinking too hard about it. That’s not to say the airbag/avalung combination wasn’t a bit ridiculous. Add my California style hydration tube and I was on the receiving end of some ribbing. I thought it was pretty comical myself, and maybe the entertainment value made up for my slightly slow transitions. (I was also using a helmet.)

    Just a thought, but when guiding a small, close knit group, maybe spending half a day bringing members of the group up to speed on airbags, radios, beacons, helmets, bindings, etc. would be the way to go. It could be awkward when people are eager for turns, but maybe worth it.

  26. VT skier October 10th, 2016 7:57 pm

    Lou wrote
    “Curious, did they require helmets? And what about ski binding adjustments and verification of release settings?

    ‘best, Lou” ”

    actually we were both on tele gear, and had used it at Rogers Pass on the Avy Course. So no one verified our release settings 🙂 .

    No one asked us to wear helmets, though we did anyway.
    I was a bit surprised, we skied some pretty steep terrain after a no fall ridge line ..on our first run !

  27. VT skier October 10th, 2016 8:07 pm

    As for the airbags, after each run, we passed the (disarmed) airbags to the guide, who waiting on right side of landing site with bundled skis and airbags, ready to load in the basket.
    We were crouched down on the left side as helicopter descended to landing site.
    After touchdown, when waved in by the pilot, we loaded ourselves in the rear bench seat of the A-star.
    After loading basket, guide jumped in left front seat of helicopter.

    I don’t think they would trust the clients inside the A-Star with airbag packs, armed or not !

  28. Trent October 11th, 2016 7:21 am

    Lou/VT Skier, it’s interesting that the guide service wouldn’t trust a client with their own beacon but preferred an unfamiliar device. Perhaps they were counting on the beacon as a one-way send, and not expecting much/any client help in a search.
    Good reminder though that if you’re attached to gear, you might mention it before hiring the guide.

  29. Lou Dawson 2 October 11th, 2016 7:59 am

    Trent, indeed, a guide service with that approach is using what I’d call the “European model” in that the client is assumed to basically have very little knowledge or skill, and the guide is hired to compensate for that, not as an educator. I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s one approach and it can work. So, when it comes to beacons the guide needs to have everything standardized. Perhaps even pre-tested and turned on. Lou

  30. Trent October 11th, 2016 8:20 am

    Lou, right. They are essentially using a two-way beacon as a one-way Recco reflector. Makes sense. To me, the most attractive aspect of the guide is as educator/mentor. But I have friends who work hard in offices in sky scrapers in Manhattan and, on vacation, just want massive vertical with their brains turned off. The guide provides that for them. Everyone has a different reason for heading up and down.

  31. Lou Dawson 2 October 11th, 2016 9:33 am

    I’ve been guided a few times, mostly while fishing. In the case of mountaineering I’ve never been very comfortable being guided, but while fishing I’ve enjoyed just being told what to do to make it work, as otherwise the frustration level can quickly rise. I’ve also enjoyed “informal” ski guiding that was more of an industry journalism type of situation, with the guide just helping things along rather than being hardcore. That type of guiding happens often on the press trips I go on. Lou

  32. See October 11th, 2016 10:03 am

    Hmmm, pro mentor but not comfortable being guided… maybe a special case.

  33. VT skier October 11th, 2016 9:51 pm

    Trent wrote,
    “Lou/VT Skier, it’s interesting that the guide service wouldn’t trust a client with their own beacon but preferred an unfamiliar device. ”

    I had just spent 3 days, at Rogers Pass and another site in town doing various rescue scenarios , multiple burials with my Pieps DSP, All as part of the Avy course.
    While the BCA Tracker I was told to carry by Heli Ops is intuitive for single rescue, I don’t like it for multiple burial scenario. Hard to understand display.. But I did what I was told.

  34. SimonC October 12th, 2016 6:53 am

    Ryan (Oct 10, 4:21pm post) for resort management historical knowledge is great; the problem arises with familiarity on the part of skiers, recreational or pro. I have lost count of the number of fatalities here in Europe of Guides or instructors with decades of experience on their home turf (or snow), in incidents on that very same home turf.
    Even a basic glance at heuristics etc tells us that the ‘you are safe with me because I am on home ground’ sales pitch is skating on very thin ice indeed…

  35. Trent October 12th, 2016 7:03 am

    See, I think the difference is in the desire to learn. Give a man a fish…

  36. Lou Dawson 2 October 12th, 2016 8:38 am

    VT, if you’re going to fall off a mountain, whether you are wearing a helmet or not is somewhat of a non issue… I’d imagine those heli operators have thought long and hard about what safety gear to require, and gotten lots of advice from their lawyers as well. One would imagine the frequency of head injuries might be rather low, compared to say, avalanches and blown knees… Again, not that I’m against helmets, but reality strikes.

  37. Darren Jakal October 12th, 2016 9:07 am

    Being safe is a state of mind, reflected in behaviour. Backcountry skiing is not safe if you ski slopes that can avalanche.

    Bring all the protection you can carry (what is often referred to as “safety equipment”) and you can still die. Safety cannot be purchased at you local sport store.

  38. See October 12th, 2016 10:16 am

    Trent, more likely (in my opinion) is that Lou has his own approach that he has developed over many years and that works for him. I imagine it’s hard for some one with that much experience to hand over the reins, so to speak. For me, I generally wouldn’t choose to be guided by someone that I didn’t think was more knowledgeable than myself. But I still analyze the situation and don’t turn off my brain. And I like to think that, if I had questions or doubts, I would speak up.

  39. Sam October 13th, 2016 7:29 am

    This past April on my first Heli trip in Valdez I experienced my first ever serious injury since getting on skis as a kid. Unsuspecting roller that sent me across a gulley and landed going uphill on the other side of gulley. Despite the epic powder, I broke some ribs, my ankle and shattered my binding. Total bummer but while laid up I was able to reflect and I’ve come away from that incident with a much needed reality check. And while reading the top 10 mistakes for avalanche saftey I realized that many of the above pointers are the same that I’ve identified and have applied to general safety/mindset when in the backcountry to ensure a safe trip and the ability to do it again.

    I realize this is all a bit off topic but my initial response of validating mandatory 2 ways from guide outfits was my initial intent…

    Lack of Communications: the scenario could of been even worse if Black Ops had not supplied the entire group with 2 way radios. Unlike other gripes above, we were allowed to use our own equip as I used my BCA link but I was able to quickly inform guide of my status immediately as well as the skier behind me that I needed assistance if he could get to me. Most importantly was able to confirm with Heli pilot of the closet location that I had to painfully ski to where he’d be able to swoop me up.

    Misapplication of Terrain: my luck ran up of treating descents like a playground and I got put in my place aka chugached

    Being Impatient with Conditions: winter didn’t exist in the VT last year so the few outings I had were skinning at the resorts (nothing worse than skinning by a blaring snogun) and another trip out to Lou’s neck of the woods with friends.

    Acting Too Much on Emotion: beyond guilty of this that day. Dreaming of getting in a Heli since I was a kid then after grinding out the past 8 years of building my biz and finally getting to a point where I had resources to do it. Add in the multiple down days prior. Stoke was at all time highs/emotional compentence did not exist that day.

    Underplaying of Uncertainty: been fortunate through the years to be paired with many guides, avy instructors and friends of friends that have exemplified this. Now time to truly own it and pass it on

  40. Lou Dawson 2 October 13th, 2016 7:32 am

    Thanks for sharing Sam, excellent! Did you heal up ok? Lou

  41. Lou Dawson 2 October 13th, 2016 7:38 am

    See, I can acquiesce when necessary, it’s not that hard, that is unless things get intense and in that case I can’t help but think for myself and perhaps disagree with the guide. I’ve not had any bad experiences in that regard, but I’m fully aware it could happen so that feeling taints the experience of being fully “officially” guided. The better the guide and the more mellow the situation, the easier it is for me to sit back and just “be guided.” Where I actually do enjoy being guided is when it comes to logistics — especially in unfamiliar places it’s sometimes so nice to not be “adventure traveling” and just have someone show us around. That’s usually the kind of “guiding” we get. Such as in Greece last winter. I truly appreciate it, enjoy it immensely, getting the insider local take on stuff.

    On the other hand, when I’m in the mood I do enjoy just finding my own way whether on the snow or in a rental car.


  42. Sam October 13th, 2016 8:38 am

    Lou, I did! Thanks for asking.

    I was very fortunate that where I broke my talus bone it was able to heal without needing surgery, which my surgeon noted most always results in chronic pain from scar tissue, ect. Just like all the gear that can distract us while in the alpine but we all love, I had some interesting new remedies beyond just a cast and crutches. Despite the insurance not covering it the doc insisted on a bone stimulator ( http://www.exogen.com/can-e ) which i had never heard of. Helped promote bone growth since they were borderline on whether or not to do surgery. Also, my arch nemeses at the time, crutches, and my desire to continue to be as mobile as possible, I found this awesome gadget (http://www.iwalk-free.com/hands-free-crutches/product-intro/ ) which I highly recommend to any readers that ever need crutches. Lastly, La Sportiva came through and replaced my TR2 binding that I blew up under warranty, which was a pleasant surprise, especially since they had just taken that product under their wings from Scarpa. Their customer serviced worked, as it was an added influence on whether or not to order a pair of the new Spectre 2.0, should be receiving those any day now!

    Back on my bike, hiking, ski workouts and was pruning my secret stashes last weekend for the upcoming season! Now I just need to break the news to my gf that I’m headed back to AK again this Spring…..

  43. MarkL October 19th, 2016 12:17 pm

    The provision of safety equipment is definitely a conundrum. For example, I work on a ropes course. I was considering buying my own harness. I like the idea of dialing in the fit, knowing its history, etc. I know a lot of high steel workers who prefer their own fall arrest harnesses for the same reasons.

    However, my employer requires me to use the harnesses they provide. From their perspective they know the purchase and replacement history of their equipment, so it is better for them to keep the equipment in-house rather than potentially being tangled up in an accident if an employee is injured or killed using their own faulty safety equipment.

    Air bags, beacons, etc. could definitely be viewed the same way. I suspect – at least in the US – it has more to do with what their insurer decides is best for them.

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  • 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.

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