Avaluator – Avalung Companion

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 3, 2006      
Avaluator backcountry skiing avalanche safety.

Per our ongoing mission here at WildSnow to help everyone improve their backcountry skiing safety judgment (including our own), we’re interested in a decision making process the Canadian Center is calling their “Avalanche Decision Framework for Amateur Recreationalists” or ADFAR for short. Latest development in this is their “Avaluator” decision support card. To see how it works, browse on over to their online tool. It’s somewhat simplistic, but that’s no doubt by intent. It appears the idea is to get people thinking through their decision to a solid endpoint “go or no go,” rather than letting dozens of “human factors” block good judgment.

Let’s hope this leads to an intensive avalanche safety course for “experts” that’s 100% about decision making. I could see something along the lines of an intensive two day seminar, one day indoors and one day in field. The indoors day would be devoted to actual self-help style behavior modification to get us looking at the danger/decision paradigm from different angles — to start the process of forming habits that enhance avalanche safety. Field day would be a time to apply what we learned out in the snow, with partially simulated decision making scenarios that challenge our bad habits. Show me where to sign up.

Avaluator and associated booklet will soon be available at outdoor retailers.

Canadian Avalanche Center provides a huge collection of avalanche safety content, including excellent online training.

To find out how at-risk you are, don’t forget our own effort at online education, and take our “will you get caught?” quiz


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


4 Responses to “Avaluator – Avalung Companion”

  1. Mike Marolt November 3rd, 2006 5:26 pm

    Lou: Don’t know if you have read Snow Struck, but I thought it was really good. Like a good climbing-book epic, it really gives many examples of what not to do, experts that got caught and why, and makes you think. Really confirms what my father used to drill into me growing up here in Aspen; on Avalanches, there are no living experts. But this author gets about as close as anyone I have known or read about. I would recomend it to anyone heading out.


  2. Thomas November 3rd, 2006 8:03 pm

    It looks like Doug and Jill’s, terrain/weather/people – green/orange/red protocol, it’s in Their book “Snow sense” I think has it, Snow Struck is Jill’s (Fredston) last book.

  3. Lou November 5th, 2006 7:14 am

    All, I made a funny typo and called this thing the Avulator [sic] instead of the Avaluator. I like my name better (grin), but I guess I’ve got to go with what’s real. Must have been a Freudian slip, was I thinking of something like the ovulator? Don’t know how that relates to avalanches in the subconscious, but there must have been something going on.

  4. Matt Kinney November 5th, 2006 8:52 am

    Nice to see new tools, but like pointed out in Snow Struck, basic skills get ignored and chaos happpens. What is good for “amateur recreationalists” still reads true for big mountain guides. They should get rid of the term “amateur recreationalist”. Sometimes we confuse avalanche terrain with steep terrain.

    Its hard to stay focused on basic skills when we are constantly being challenged to think a different way, such as the Avaluator or the M3x3, etc…. I tend to ignore these processes in application, other than for reinforcement of some concepts and familiarization with new tools of the mountains. Every problem these tools solve can be solved by a handful of basic route skills, experience. and solid ski skills.

    For instance how many skiers do you know travel without a slope meter very handy? Better yet …. how many pull it out and use it a few times on a new route or climb? Guessing is good? This the most basic of avalanche skills. Is the slope capable of sliding? It’s the only way I know that you can actually put an exact number (temperature being an obvious exception) on something in avalanche terrain. Everything else up as an assumed number or rating based on some test result that allows you to make “go” or “no go” in the gray areas of avalanche potential.

    The Avuluator ignores precise slope angles. As far as I can see in its evaluation you guess the angle, thus the importance of exact slope angles is diminished. We should be obsessed with slope angles till we know. Perhaps the card could be improved by attaching a slope-meter much like the Lifelink Slope Meter. Before we ski that 45, we still need traverse/climb 32-44. That is a lot of slope avalaanche.

    Whatever works…. When skiing solo I use this mental game of “baseball” with avalanche terrain from time to time. If I have one indicator of instability that is one strike/green light. Two different indicators/yellow light. Three indicators/red light and I am out of there…. as in turning around and going far away. This prevents me from ignoring obvious clues which seems to be the #1 reason for avalanche incidents in the “amateur” recreational and professional ski community. No need to differentiate based on statistics of who needs the most help.

    Thanks again Lou for a real good ski pag

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