Avalanches in the News — Colorado and Revelstoke


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 19, 2010      

A couple of avalanche type things are on my mind today. First, if you’ve been around outdoor gear you probably know of Loki clothing. Seth Anderson, co-founder of the company and a spirited booster of their somewhat unusual but attractive garments got avalanched on Wednesday, backcountry skiing on Grand Mesa near Grand Junction, Colorado. Seth was severely injured and by all accounts lucky to be alive. He was with well known Grand Junction outdoors woman Ann Driggers. Contrary to newspaper reports Ann was NOT caught in the slide as well but was actually spotting Seth from a safe area, and as a result was able to spend around four hours rendering first aid to Seth as they waited for a rescue, which Ann was luckily able to instigate on her cell phone (I spoke with Ann this morning).

It is somewhat unusual for people to get into avalanche trouble on Grand Mesa, but it does happen. According to Ann, they were in some terrain that most people are not familiar with. Interestingly, Ann said she had a GPS and was able to give the rescuers her exact coordinates, which facilitated the rescue and perhaps even saved Seth’s life. On that note, the newspapers mistakenly said that Seth’s rescuers were somehow able to get Ann’s GPS coordinates from her avalanche beacon, leading to wags about town saying “I want one of those beacons!”

Ann suggested we wait for the CAIC avy report for the details, rather than me having her go through the whole thing one more time after she’d just spoken with Scott from CAIC. That sounded good, so we’ll link to the CAIC report from here once it’s up.

Having broken both legs myself in an avy, I know what the drive down recovery road is like. So prayers are going out for Seth’s speedy healing.

Both Ann and Seth are quite the experienced backcountry skiers, so take-home from this is no matter who you are or what you know, be danged careful out there.

Also in avalanche news, just about any sledder or skier has by now heard of the unmitigated disaster near Revelstoke, in which around 200 snowmobilers were hanging out under an avalanche path and got ‘lanched. Two died, at least 30 injured. The sheer stupidity and weirdness of this occurrence left me for a least an hour without the ability to type on my keyboard. Apparently they were having some sort of semi-formal snowmobile event and this incident either occurred during the event, or soon after, and involved folks who had attended the event. All I can say is that if this doesn’t change the way snowmobilers in the Revelstoke area view avalanche danger, I don’t know what will. At the least, one would hope they’ll all get better at judging their picnic spots.

Comments, anyone? Are sledders somehow less careful of avalanches than backcountry skiers? Or are there just more sledders so one gets that impression? And MORE IMPORTANTLY, please leave get-well wish comments for Seth. I’m sure he’ll read this, so lets send him some love!



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Comments

42 Responses to “Avalanches in the News — Colorado and Revelstoke”

  1. Randonnee March 19th, 2010 10:19 am

    Prayers sent for Seth! Hang in there!

    In regard to staying safe- my personal mantra is ‘get it right or die.’ With that, I realize that I can have a lapse in judgment or lack of attention in regard to avalanche hazard, so I try to constantly nag myself to follow the rules and leave a wide margin for safety when I make a decision. So far, i am fortunate that I was not injured in my two rides in avalanches, and I learned to stay cautious and fear being caught!

    Yes, Lou, my observation is that there is an explosion in snowmobile riding on terrain that was not ridden much a few years ago. New snowmobile technology has opened new recreational possibilities to the masses, it is easy to understand- what a rush…However I question whether the increased participation on potentially deadly avalanche terrain includes increased education and consideration of the consequences. I have met some snowmobile riders what are conservative and cautious about avalanche hazard and we discuss it. But snowmobiles cover so many aspects of so much terrain in minutes that it seems difficult to make good evaluations. One advantage is that when I see highmarks under a cornice above a 35 to 40 degree slope that I want to ski, that is a big clue for stability!

    OK, we are out of here to harvest more ripening corn this afternoon!

  2. Michael Coyle March 19th, 2010 10:38 am

    Lou; I too was shocked at how many people could blatantly disregard the over three weeks of special avalanche warning that the Canadian Avalanche Association had been broadcasting over every media outlet possible; I blogged about it as well.

    However, on talking to members of the sledding community it seems that this event has in the past attracted over 1300 (some say 2000) people.

    Now the sheer number of people that have attended in the past could be seen by some to be a problem, especially for an unsanctioned and unlicensed event. However it would seem that since over 85% of the people stayed home that the avalanche association’s message was heard and heeded by about a thousand people.

  3. Jon Miller March 19th, 2010 11:20 am

    With sleds huge increase in power and ability, not to mention the proliferation of slednecking videos showing what they are capable of, more and more people are hitting more and more terrain. As an avalanche educator, we have been trying to find the right formula to get sledders into classes, but it has been difficult. Maybe we need a sled specific course, because most backcountry courses don’t really meet the needs of sledders. There are a lot of conciencious sledders with education and avy skils, but a lot more with no clue. With all for ease and power available to the average sledder, it is a matter of time before they get in trouble. Hopefully it ends well for them and they learn rather then the ultimate consequence.

  4. Lou March 19th, 2010 11:59 am

    Michael, good take. But it wasn’t a bunch of yahoos out there. Stories abound on the web about guys with their kids and stuff like that. So yeah, a lot of people went home, but it was pretty strange to me that that many people hung around under an avy slope. I mean, would those same people go out with their kid and dodge traffic on a nearby highway? If not, then they either did not know how dangerous a situation they were in, or else they were involved in some sort of mass hysteria that made them blind to the danger.

  5. Michael Coyle March 19th, 2010 12:15 pm

    As I wrote in my blog post,
    http://oplopanax.bluetoque.ca/2010/03/death-on-snowmobile-part-2.html

    “Survivorship bias” (see wikipedia) and the bandwagon effect (also documented via wikipedia) are very powerful forces, and not limited to sledders.

    To add to this, there’s always the attitude that an organized event would have some sort of oversight. In fact the individual who’s responsible did hint that it was a possible that there would be some sort of avalanche control performed on site before the event. This would lead people into a sense of security similar to what a ski hill offers.

    Ultimately I am not sure that the uneducated (who selected themselves into this group by ignoring the hazard) even know the difference between a control area like a ski hill and an uncontrolled backcountry area. To them it probably looks the same.

    I have seen a group of 60-80 skiiers head into the backcountry from the University of British Columbia’s Varsity Outdoor Club. This sort of mass event is not limited to sledders.

  6. togwotee March 19th, 2010 12:22 pm

    Get well soon Seth!!

    as far as slednecks go….IMHO the vast majority are completely clueless. After spending 3 seasons as a guide in BTNF my opinion is entrenched. Up here at togwotee pass (the sledneck equivalent of teton pass for skiers) the guides are required to carry a beacon, shovel, and probe and watch a 60 minute video before leading clients into avy terrain. granted, the vast area here available to sleds here are large, wide open meadows, but there is plenty of avy prone areas. our mild winter has prevented limited access to these areas and I think that is one reason we haven’t had a fatality around here this year. guides and clients continue to carry their avy gear on their sleds in special bags made by the sled co.’s. the typical person here is either a local (western) hardcore rider or someone from the upper midwest who has no avy experience at all. so they are either “immune” from or “clueless” about avy’s. at the most they know how to turn their beacons on and do a rudimentary search. most guides here know nothing about prevention, reading a snowpack, or the first aid required to support a recovered and alive victim.

    Yes, a dedicated avy course for slednecks is very necessary. In addition the NFS must implement higher guide standards (minimum Avy 1, monthly refreshers, and WFR) for tour operators within the NF.

  7. eric March 19th, 2010 12:31 pm

    Lou I think you hit it with mass hysteria. We all know ” that everyone else was doing it” is one of the most common mistakes that leads to avy deaths.

    I think all of the attention being given to the fact that they were snowmachiners is clouding the lesson to be learned, that large groups make as many or more mistakes then small ones and should be considered an added danger.

  8. Thomas B March 19th, 2010 12:38 pm

    There are knowledgeable and safe sledders. , they are the minority. Go on to any sledding web community and for every guy telling folks to get an education there are 20 talking about “it just happened” “God’s will” ” the mountain just let loose” “unlucky” etc etc after a slide.
    They are more dangerous, less likely to give to avalanche centers and take up more space at trailheads, track out more snow.
    As long as horsepower will be the “measure of a man”, as opposed to say the willingness to study a snowpack and turn around, there will be more and more sledder deaths.

  9. ScottP March 19th, 2010 1:23 pm

    It seems clear, based on most peoples’ personal experience, that a lot of sledders are clueless about avalanches. Is that proportion higher than skiers, though? You have to admit that sampling from the readers of Wildsnow is taking a rather biased look at the general BC ski population; if they’ve found this site then they’ve at least been exposed to avalanche awareness. How many skiers/boarders are out there in the BC with absolutely no clue (I know there are some out there and may have been one myself at one time :angel: ), and how does that proportion compare with sledders? And for that matter, how many skiers/boarders are there out there compared to sledders? Knowing those statistics would put the number of incidents into perspective, certainly.

  10. cory March 19th, 2010 2:02 pm

    To me, a sled limits your senses. When I’ve pulled the plug skiing, often it has been encouraged by a good “whumpf ” or a pole breaking through a layer. A sledder has a tougher time getting these same sensations.

  11. James March 19th, 2010 3:54 pm

    Unfortunately, the snowmobiler community lacks a base of historical knowledge. Let’s face it, backcountry snowmobiling is a very new activity. Whereas most skiers have the luxury of drawing on the collective knowledge of many generations of backcountry awareness going back hundreds of years, ‘bilers have really only been doing this stuff for at most at most 20 years. Sleds just weren’t able to go these places before that. So, in reality, most sledders are very new backcountry travelers. Whereas skiers/snowshoers/ etc have the combination of historical knowledge and modern, formal avalanche education, sledders have access to only the latter. Unfortunately, at least I believe, it’s the former that instills conservatism, caution, and that sixth sense that no avalanche course can teach.
    There are many bilers’ that know their stuff when it comes to avalanche awareness, so eventually the culture will change. However, its gonna take time and many riders will face the White Death while we wait.

  12. Mark Staples March 19th, 2010 5:13 pm

    Hi Lou,
    Thanks for addressing this avalanche. At the GNFAC we work with a lot of snowmobilers and get out riding as much as anybody (over 1000 miles of mountain riding this season so far). Your questions are very common perceptions of snowmobilers, and I’d like to offer just a few thoughts.

    Snowmobiles offer incredibly easy access to the backcountry just like ski areas offer incredibly easy access to “sidecountry” areas. We see very similar behavior among uneducated skiers and uneducated snowmobilers. Let not forget how many in the Revelstoke incident were carrying appropriate rescue gear and used it effectively. A recent avalanche on Saddle Peak near Bridger Bowl could have easily been the skiers’ equivalent of the Revelstoke accident.

    Making decisions while snowmobiling in avalanche terrain is actually much more difficult than doing the same while skiing. We all understand difficulties with the human factor. I personally experience the these difficulties and other human factor issues when riding, but they are amplified by 100. It’s a really difficult problem. To be honest, when we consider the mileage and the amount of avalanche terrain covered by a capable snowmobiler, it’s remarkable that in a typical season just as many skiers/snowboarders die in avalanches as snowmobilers. In the U.S. for the 09/10 season 10 snowmobilers and 10 skiers/snowboarders (avalanche.org) have died in avalanches.

    The Revelstoke accident could have been avoided with a few simple things. How many other accidents (skiers or snowmobilers) could have been avoided with a few simple things as well. Our file cabinet is full of easily preventable accidents, but we’re all human and all prone to making the same mistakes no matter how obvious they are in hindsight. This is the lesson to me.
    Thanks

  13. Jonathan Shefftz March 19th, 2010 5:20 pm

    For some background articles on snowmobiler avalanche safety, see pp. 24-26 here:
    http://www.americanavalancheassociation.org/tar/TAR27_2_LoRes.pdf
    (Interesting tidbit: based on the available data, although avy deaths are Public Enemy #1 for backcountry skiers, avy deaths are a relatively small % of total deaths for snowmachiners.)

    And for educational outreach efforts to the snowmachiner community, see pp. 1, 17, 18 here:
    http://www.americanavalancheassociation.org/archive/tar/TAR24_2_FINAL_LoRes.pdf

  14. Lou March 19th, 2010 5:22 pm

    Thanks Mark, yes, we’re all human, but we can learn. Hindsight helps the learning process. That’s why I indulge in it. Lou

  15. Brittany Walker March 19th, 2010 6:35 pm

    My best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to Seth. Ann is a friend of mine, and I know she will not take this incident lightly. My deepest thoughts go out to her as well.

    As for the Revy snowmobile incidents- Frank and I were in Revelstoke a week or so before the avalanche happened. Our friends from Pemberton had come to meet up with us, and brought their sleds as well, for us to use on some sled-accessed skiing. Frank and I were unhappy with the snowpack. And after checking out the mad-house that Boulder Mountain was, we immediately switched our plans to head on to Whitewater. Our friends decided to go out on a “conservative” tour, headed for low angle gladed terrain. They got off their sleds, began skinning, and remotely triggered an avalanche… in low angle trees. They promptly turned around and headed home. If it was touchy then, a bunch of new snow was not going to help matters.

    Relative to the US, Canada seems to have much better programs/advertising to make people aware of avalanches. Somehow this seems to be hitting home with thier skiers, but maybe not so much with the sledders. We can only hope that now the snowmobilers will learn something from this. Maybe skiers too.

  16. Frank K March 19th, 2010 6:57 pm

    Best wishes to Seth, as well as Ann.

    Breaking news is another slide in the Revelstoke area, sledders, possibly multiple burials, but I’m sure at this point the news could be way off.
    http://www.vancouversun.com/Avalanche+hits+Revelstoke+Eagle+Pass/2704194/story.html

  17. Matt Kinney March 19th, 2010 7:06 pm

    We have a highmark contest here. It is called the Mountain-Man Hill Climb and I guess anyone can enter, even if your a woman….. :face:

    For ten years they have camped the whole gallery and judges in the runout zone of a major, partially controlled avalanche path . Last year a snowmachiner above the crowd set off some old hangfire ( from a previous slide that would have smothered the course and gallery area.) He was buried and killed right front of the crowd of nearly 500. They were lucky no other snowmachiner was under the guy. He wore no beacon or anything. He was “experienced”. The hangfire was what remained of the largest skier triggered slide I have seen in the area. The subsequent avalanche incident report failed to make any recommendations in regard to event safety. For instance this could have been easily inserted .”MOVE EVERYONE BACK FROM THE MOUNTAIN” Some other errors appear and may indicate some bias in the report to protect the sponsors/safety team from the appeareance of negligence and/or ignorance,

    The other venue for the ” Mountainperson ” is on N. Odessey. That has been a real scary venue with the same staging of the judges and the gallery area all in a major avalanche path. They do some bombing, but the area is huge and it funnels right to the galley/staging area. Its an amazing site as I typically just drive right on by to go ski and hope they remain lucky. Some rogue snowmachiner ( there are alot of them) could trigger something well away from the course and cause some serious havoc in Schoolbus

    When they first came up with the idea of these events, I suggested that all the galleries and judges be moved to the other side (west) side of the highway. a couple hundred yard . gasped! I guess coming from a skier- greenie -dude didn’t have much impact. I had hoped that they would realize that my “greenness”, skins and GEO Metro have little to do with my thoughts on avalanche safety and self preservation. (The mountain do not care they I love them :heart: )

    Bummer in Canada. I hear it was a stuck sled and then someone went up to help the guy. Over and over the same mistakes. We have and will continue to see more mulitple victims in snowmachine incidents. You cannot travel slow enough to properly check the snowpack. Many are reluctant to stop and dig, poke. If its easier to “machine” in to the wilderness, its must be easier to “sled-test” for stability. Laziness breeds laziness.

    I do not not think you can come close to comparing the safety record of backcountry skiers to the chaos created by snowmachines in the mountains. Sure skiers screw up, but the nature of skiing makes the sport inherently more safe than snowmachining, specifically in avalanche terrain. Statitically BC skiers do very well, are well educatedl and continue to show positive trends in regards to deaths and injuries proportional to the growth of the sport.
    (I do not include “sidecountry/slackountry” as the same sample groupe as BC skiers)

    Based on my experience traveling in avalanche terrain, I seriously question if avalanche educators should be teaching snowmachiners that they can travel in avalanche terrain safely. They should be teaching them how to first, identify avalanche terrain and secondly, how to totally avoid it..

    73 days! then…. AK!
    biggrin:

  18. Nick March 19th, 2010 10:18 pm

    i think it is unfair to have mentioned this

    All I can say is that if this doesn’t change the way snowmobilers in the Revelstoke area view avalanche danger, I don’t know what will. At the least, one would hope they’ll all get better at judging their picnic spots.

    From what i have heard and read the first big thing is the town actually is in no way involved in the event and nor is the local snowmobile club. II believe they had been previously but they are not anymore. instead its just sort of an old event that had kept going. From reports i read it is actually primarily out of towners that flood to the event and not as many locals. Most locals who were out that day said they were in other much safer zones and no where near the event. Which kind of goes against your statement.

    i think what really shines is the fact you should always research and look into the local snowpacks for the areas you plan to visit. Perhaps a few people were unaware of special warnings but who knows.

  19. Lina March 19th, 2010 10:22 pm

    Sledders do not have the same insight and understanding of avalanches as skiers. Skiers are close to the snow. It’s just 2 planks between you and the snow and you can feel the snow move. Sledders have a machine between them and the snow. No matter how much you prepare as a skier there is always the day you took a risk too many or are 2 hours too late going down, or had to cut through a high risk area to get down. The difference between a sledder and a skier though is that they are so much closer to feeling the danger. It’s not to say skiers don’t get caught or sometimes die, but more of them are educated, study the snow, the weather and the terrain. Sledders think it up to God’s Will, the skier has felt the risk.

  20. CookieMonster March 19th, 2010 11:40 pm

    *

    First the mountaineers visited the mountains, and many were killed by avalanches. The mountaineering community learned hard lessons.

    Then skiers started visiting the mountains, and the mountaineers watched in disbelief. The mountaineers said “Those idiots will be killed if they keep it up. Can you imagine, coming to the mountains to ski in that dangerous powder!!?” And many skiers were killed by avalanches, while the mountaineers shook their heads.

    Then snowmobilers started visiting the mountains, and the skiers watched in disbelief. The skiers said “Those idiots will be killed if they keep it up. Can you imagine, coming to the mountains to climb huge slopes in all that dangerous powder!!??” And many snowmobilers were killed by avalanches, while the skiers shook their heads.

    *

    At some point, snowmobilers will develop a culture of safety that is on par with skiers.

    Unfortunately, some of the pioneers always end up with arrows in their backs.

  21. Chris March 20th, 2010 7:33 am

    As an avalanche forecaster and educator for both skiers and riders, I see both sides of the snowmobile issue.

    A common misconception is that way more sledders are getting killed than other user groups. This is due to how data is commonly displayed comparing sledder fatalities to bc skiers, snowmobilers, ob skiers, snowshoers, etc. If you look strictly at motorized vs. all “sliders” it is pretty close to 50/50 each year. If you look at motorized vs. non, the non-motorized group usually leads the pack.

    Due to recent advances in sledding technology, they are the “new kids on the block” in the avalanche world, and as a result are behind the game. Back in 70s and 80s, as a lot of you can attest, skiers were doing some stupid things and many are lucky to be alive.

    The fact that sledders are behind the ball is everyone’s fault. Most avalanche educators, forecasters, and other “experts” (myself included) come from a skiing background, and the motorized/non-motorized division has been responsible for the poor transfer of knowledge and expertise from skiers to sledders. The community of avalanche professionals has been slow to provide adequate education to the sledding community. In our defense, snowmobilers and the snowmobile industry have been slow to seek education and have done little to address the issue. Then again, how long did it take skiers to figure it out, and have they really?

    We provide sledding specific education programs each winter, our powerpoints contain no images of skiers, and our instructors don’t wear Patagonia and can generally keep up on sleds. We’ve had a lot of dangerous conditions this winter, and it’s rewarding for me to go out to the popular sledding areas and see no highmarks on north aspects.

    I should be careful what I say, but while Canada is at the cutting edge of most things related to avalanches, they have been behind the ball on sledder education. After last season they realized they need to step it up, but failed to acknowledge that sledder specific avalanche education began in the US ten years ago.

  22. Jonathan Shefftz March 20th, 2010 10:08 am

    “On that note, the newspapers mistakenly said that Seth’s rescuers were somehow able to get Ann’s GPS coordinates from her avalanche beacon, leading to wags about town saying “I want one of those beacons!””
    — Just tell them to wait for next year (at least according to a brochure I saw…).

  23. sherryb March 20th, 2010 10:15 am

    Heuristics and Snorgies
    (Thoughts on mass gatherings on public lands)

    While everyone is entitled to go out and stuff themselves, I guess, what is not cool is stuffing yourself while endangering others. It is a given that the potential stuffees have the personal responsibility to recognize when they are about to be stuffed.

    National Forest lands in the U.S. have rules about large groups of people on regulated land. Commercial ventures are limited to groups of 12 people or 25 total when using livestock. OK, so this was not a commercial venture, but as an example of non-commercial “gatherings” we can look at the old BB&B spring fest at Vail.

    When after years of littering, mass mayhem, personal injuries and lost drunken people finally got the goat of Vail Resorts and White River NF, the event was squashed and deemed NO MORE by the Forest Service with the threat of fines and arrests for future gatherings under BB&B banner. :angry: What that brought was smaller “private” gatherings on the first Tuesday in April at the ski area which seems to have resulted in no mass mayhem and personal injuries that I know of. :ninja:

    It’s a shame that tragedy has to occur before consideration of public protection occurs, but does the Canadian provincial public administrators not have the ability to step in and break up this sort of mass Snorgy? If this is an established gathering of previous years, I think it may have only been inevitable that something like this would occur. And what of the missing “organizer”?

    I was pleased to read (if it is true) that a gathering that has in the past drawn possibly 1300 or so sleds, only drew a couple hundred this time. It seems some people WERE paying attention. :angel:

  24. Kevin Horch March 20th, 2010 2:45 pm

    Seth,
    i hope you feel better soon. best wishes for a fast recovery.
    all of us at sunlight are sending good energy your way
    khorch

  25. sherryb March 20th, 2010 4:33 pm

    And now, back from my own ski tour….
    Seth, I don’t know you but I do wish you a speedy recovery, and I’m very glad you came out of that.
    If anything positive can ever come out of something like this, it would be that hearing you are a true backcountry savvy dude, who still somehow got caught, really perks up my ears, makes my hair stand on end and makes me hyper-vigilant.
    I took up an extra notch in my safety belt when I went out today. 😉
    BEST WISHES

  26. James March 21st, 2010 9:00 am

    Heading out the door for some turns but thought this might interest some.

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/03/21/bc-avalanche-heli-skiing.html?ref=rss

    Bilers’s highmarking and getting smoked, though sad and terrible, is one thing….Guided skiers getting it is a whole other animal. It must be truly treacherous out there.

    Heart goes out to the families of all killed this season.

    JM

  27. KDog March 21st, 2010 10:15 am

    James wrote: “Guided skiers getting it is a whole other animal. It must be truly treacherous out there.”

    Especially if you take into account that the Professionals up here have been guiding under severe restrictions for over two months, are well aware of the snowpack’s problems and are probably skiing a fraction of their tenures.

    Even when sticking to low angle, previously skied terrain and doing everything they can to mitigate the hazard short of closing down the company, there is still the chance of this happening.

    I do not know the particulars of this accident yet, but I feel sympathy for any Guide trying to make a living, keeping their clients safe and staying alive themselves in these crazy conditions. The stress alone would kill me!

    Consider how many hours this season a Guide will expose themselves to this hazard compared to the average recreational skier.

  28. Paul March 21st, 2010 10:44 am

    Some heliskiing companies have voluntarily shut down for the season due to stability issues – Eagle’s Pass Heliskiing (where the biler was killed on Friday) voluntarily shut on March 6th.

  29. David March 21st, 2010 3:24 pm

    Something more to note, Second set of snowmobilers have been killed in the Revelstoke area from an avalanche, and this weekend, two French heli-skiers have died near Valemount.

    I’m thinking that people are still disregarding the danger of avalanches in the mountains. Especially with the weird weather that Western Canada is experiencing.

  30. Dave March 22nd, 2010 11:50 am

    This may be “preaching to the choir” here but I have found the horsepower dominated “measure of a man” sled culture extremely frustrating when it comes to bc knowledge and safety.

    Thomas B states “There are knowledgeable and safe sledders, they are the minority.” After my 25yrs of bc travel and 5 yrs of sledskiing travel, I would, generally, agree. Read into this what you will, but I have YET to encounter a sledder who has dug a pit and has PERSONAL knowledge of that days snow conditions. I have even been chastised by my partners for even asking this question when I approach a group in an area that I’m sharing; contrastingly, I have always found at least one person in other travel groups who has a first hand knowledge of that days conditions.

    That being said, it is a moot point as to whether sledders choosing to ACTIVELY adopt the current snow and avy knowledge would decrease the number of accidents. Obviously, the vast amount of terrain covered makes this task challenging.

  31. Lou March 22nd, 2010 11:55 am

    What was interesting to me over these past weeks is that yes, two sledders died, but then so did two skiers…. that made me pause and think. We like to talk about all the extra safety measures we skiers take in comparison to sledders, but PER CAPITA, I wonder who dies in avalanches the most? It might very well be backcountry skiers!

  32. Perry March 22nd, 2010 5:51 pm

    Wow. That’s a scary story. Living out in Colorado, it’s important to always be aware of avalanches if you ski in the backcountry.

    As this dry ski season comes to a close and warmer temperatures settle in, it’s vital to be up to speed on avalanche awareness.

    Here’s a great refresher course:

  33. Mark March 22nd, 2010 10:32 pm

    Don’t forget, Perry, that some of the best backcountry skiing happens after most of the resorts are closed in the Spring. I, for one, am ready for reduced avy danger.

  34. Jeff March 23rd, 2010 7:05 am

    A big part of the problem is that most avalanche education is geared towards those of us who ski. At an avalanche class that I attended when the instructor mentioned the number of human beings that had been killed in avalanches while riding snowmobiles the class erupted in cheers. Can anybody really expect snowmobile riders to attend classes like this? Put away your small minded prejudices and welcome all people who love the winter outdoors and deaths will decrease from lack of education.

  35. blondin March 23rd, 2010 7:53 am

    It’s all about education (or lack thereof).
    It is not a question of “us vs. them” but rather how to incorporate adequate education targeted at each user group. Pointing fingers is really easy with hindsight but the amount of un-educated people in the backcountry is alarming. Hopefully this will start to change and I applaud groups such as ZacsTracs for their efforts.

  36. Frank K March 23rd, 2010 8:59 am

    Some great comments on this post, particularly Mark’s and Chris’s.

    I ran into a friend the other day and reminisced about some of my earliest sled access skiing 10-12 years ago. At the time, the hot sleds were 700RMK’s and summit 670’s. The slopes we struggled to climb on those sleds would be a half-throttle cakewalk on my M8 these days. Things have come a long way. In other words, snowmobiling is a new sport in a lot of ways, as others have mentioned.

    Some skiers get really into snow science, and do their master’s thesis on some aspect of it, and become forecasters and instructors. I’m not sure how many snowmobilers have gone that route, but they will. That will be a good thing.

    Experienced bc skiers can do a lot while they skin up a slope, such as hand pits, pole probing the snow, stomping on little features to see if they fracture or not, not to mention we can hear a whoompf and feel a density change etc… Snowmobiles cover so much ground they can do a lot of test slopes, which is an advantage. Once snowmobilers get into the science and start looking at more ways they can do things differently than the skiers and teaching those things, I think you’ll start to see a safer user group.

  37. Jason March 24th, 2010 1:32 pm

    http://www.vholdr.com/video/2-28-2010-tahoe-backcountry-1 This clip shows a skier surviving an Avalanche. Notice where the avalanche starts, it is hard to know where unstable snow exists without daily observations. Wow, Scary even with warnings backcountry users will still enter the wilderness. No amount of regulation can prevent this. It is the responsibility if the backcountry user to know the conditions and make wise decisions

  38. Daniel Dunn October 24th, 2010 2:11 pm

    Lou,
    I have an idea, and not sure where to start, but you are the top of the list when it comes to knowledge and who to talk to. I want to do some sort of avie clinic, aimed specifically at teenagers.
    Kids that live in our mt communities can get into the backcountry so fast, and into such crazy terrain, that they need to have some knowledge or bad things are going to happen.
    But our education system is set up a certain way, and while fine for adults, we need to change up some things, so teenagers get it. More on the delivery front, than the actual content.
    Wondering if you might have ideas, or feedback, or could direct me to a person or place to start with. BTW, I’m in Breckenridge.

  39. Jonathan Shefftz October 24th, 2010 3:28 pm

    The Canadian journal has featured some good articles on youth education over the past couple years or so: http://tinyurl.com/26ktvlc
    I don’t recall anything in TAR, although I could be wrong: http://tinyurl.com/2u9hl28
    I don’t think AIARE has any youth-specific training courses or presentations, although once again I might be forgetting something since I don’t teach that demographic.

  40. Jonathan Shefftz October 24th, 2010 3:33 pm

    So instead of relying on what additional resources I could remember, I just gave up and googled a bit:
    http://tinyurl.com/2eo3ue2
    http://tinyurl.com/25ultek
    http://tinyurl.com/2cu73ap (toward the bottom)
    http://tinyurl.com/257xcdz (“Youth Avalanche Awareness Workshop (1 day)* * – details for new courses coming soon”)

  41. Lou October 25th, 2010 6:40 am

    Hi Daniel, our schools around here do have days when they take students up on the ski mountain for a safety awareness day which involves education from ski patrollers, and includes avalanche safety though other things are covered such as OB hazards such as mine shafts.

    Or at least they used to do this. Now that our teen is an adult we’re not tracking that stuff like we used to.

    Mountain Rescue Aspen also used to go to the schools and teach Hug a Tree survival class to kids.

    My suggestion to you would be to work through existing institutions and contact them first to see if they do anything presently. I’d call what you’re talking about “Backcountry Safety,” which would include ski resort safety, avy awareness, what to do if lost, etc.

    For about three years myself and a few other folks ran an outdoor ed program through our sons church and school. That was a lot of work but we included backcountry safety in the very fabric of what we were doing, and the kids got a lot out of it in that way. You could look into volunteering for an existing outdoor ed program, that way you could have an influence and find out firsthand what they’re up to. Some of those programs are good, but some have so little risk management it’s upsetting once you see it first hand (or hear about the results later in the newspaper.)

  42. Daniel Dunn October 25th, 2010 10:49 am

    Jonathan & Lou, thanks very much, that is super helpful. Storm in CO!!

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