So as we reluctantly start to think about packing winter away until next season there are a few things not to forget!
- TRANSCEIVER – don’t forget to remove batteries! Batteries left in for a long period of time may cause corrosion that may damage your battery terminals. You don’t want to be stuck looking for a fix at the start of next season!
- AIR BAG – well… each one is a bit different, now would be a good time to refer to your manual. Overall, check you connections, zippers and wear and tear. You may want to deploy your airbag and let sit to check for slow leaks. If you have empty canisters don’t forget to re-fill for Fall!
- SHOVEL / PROBE – Did you forget that you lost your handle on your last ride out? Now is the time to make sure your gear is in top shape! Give yourself some time to research new gear over the summer if you need to replace something!
- TRAIN – keep your skills fresh! Do some transceiver searches in the summer! Hang a transceiver in a tree to represent a deep burial. The higher it is the deeper the burial! What challenges do you have?
See you next season!
After a not-so-hot summer, snow began blanketing the peaks of the interior mountains early this year. For a lot of us, seeing white peaks early causes excitement, and reassurance that winter really isn’t that far away. Some folks get out for a quick walk just to hear the crunch of snow under their feet or build a snowball – it’s kind of like welcoming an old friend home isn’t it? Others head to their early season spot for a few rocky turns or fire up the sled and grab a few mitt full’s on a covered logging road or some wet grass!
This September, in a very unfortunate event, the first avalanche fatality of the 16-17 season occurred. A party of two skiers set out to ski a line near Lake Louise. The group encountered conditions they didn’t like and decided they should head back down out of harm’s way. During the descent, the first skier triggered a wind slab that subsequently swept him off his feet and over a large cliff. Condolences to the skier’s family and friends.
The event got me thinking… What are some of the common early season avalanche problems I am likely to encounter and where might I be looking for them? Due to low snowpack depth, are there different hazards in terrain that I didn’t really have to think about last spring when I parked my machine for the summer? Information is always sparse during my first few missions, where might I look to find an info on what’s happening out there?
Throughout last winter Avalanche Canada’s Mountain Information Network (MIN) gained acceptance amongst the recreational community. As the season progressed I was able to find more and more info on what people were seeing during their adventures – the best sign of instability in the snowpack is recent avalanches! Thanks for sharing! Hopefully the MIN will see even more contributions this season and give valuable information to both recreationalist’s and Public Avalanche Forecasters. I’m going try to post regularly on what I’m seeing when I’m out.
When I put my sled away, it was hard to get up to the riding areas but if you managed to get there, the riding was still great. Heading out early season I’m definitely thinking about the potential of being pushed into rocks that aren’t yet fully covered. Getting pushed into an open creek is another one – if I’m stuck under my sled it doesn’t take very deep cold water to send me into a world of hurt.
So what sort of avalanche problems might I encounter that could put me into these terrain traps? When I finished riding I was thinking a lot about staying away from big cornices, large wet avalanches on solar slopes, upper elevation wind slabs and persistent slabs. I’m guessing some of those problems might be developing now – even in mid-October. One of the first things I think about early season is have we reached threshold for avalanches to even occur? To answer, I need to know a lot about the ground cover in the area I want to explore. Low elevation, rough, treed terrain is going to take a while to reach threshold. But what about the alpine? Or glaciated terrain? On smooth surfaces (like the ones I want to ride cause I don’t want to break my sled) as little as 30-50 cm of snow could result in the first avalanche cycle. Cold glacial temperatures can quickly form weak layers where the early season snow meets the ice. If it keeps snowing (I really hope it does) we’ll likely see storm slab formation – a short lived problem as the snow pack adjusts to the freshly fallen snow. A short period of wind can quickly transport snow into wind slabs. A good rule of thumb says we can expect 3 to 5 times the average recent snow depth where the wind has transported snow into leeward features.
If you’re anything like me, once you see the first snow, you can’t keep your eyes off the mountains or the weather forecast! Following the forecast can give you a pretty good handle on what you might encounter on your first rides. What’s the temp been doing? Did any of that precip fall as rain at upper elevations (I sure hope not…)? Did we have any long dry spells or mild sunny periods where a crust or persistent grains formed in the shallow snowpack? Has it been really windy? Keeping up to speed on the weather as we get closer to riding season can help us anticipate what we might find for avalanche problems and prevent unwanted surprises.
I’m seeing pics of sleds at the Boulder Cabin in Revelstoke! It’s getting really tough to maintain composure and wait for more snow… Maybe I’ll wait til the weekend.
During a recent search for a missing snowmobiler Search and Rescue (SAR) teams utilized a unique piece of equipment to try and locate the subject, the Barryvox VX 2000 Pro EXT Helicopter Transceiver. This is a great rescue tool with diverse capabilities. It’s primary function allows searchers to cover large avalanche deposits quickly and efficiently without having to put rescuers on the ground with a potential risk of secondary avalanche, however it can also be used to search forested areas where a person may be stuck in a tree well or creek where it may be difficult to see from the air. As with any tool there are limitations. This device has a range of 60m and can only be used when flying conditions allow for it. This search method brings up a few questions to ask ourselves:
- Are we always equipped with all the rescue and emergency gear needed to deal with any situation? Do you carry enough gear to spend an unplanned night out on the mountain? What about a 2 way device to reach the outside world when no cell service?
- Do you have an emergency plan? Do you tell someone where you are going and check in when you are back? Do you carry 2 way radios to communicate with your riding buds?
- Are you familiar with your how to test your transmit range on your transceiver? Transceiver range marketing focuses on how far away you can find someone (receive range), NOT on how far your transceiver transmits its signal (transmit range)….
WEEK 8 WINNER – $110 Value
Mark Smitten from Erskine, AB wins a pair of Peak Goggles from MOTORFIST
What is your preference? We have done a product overview of all the newest triple antenna transceivers. Check out our youtube site for more info!
Help us Celebrate 10 years of bringing you Avalanche Training! Wow does time fly! We have taught over 2000 students and have travelled countless km’s over Western Canada to spread the word about Avalanche Safety! We are super excited to introduce you to our EXPANDING TEAM! Check out our group of amazing INSTRUCTORS who are dedicated to sharing their knowledge and experience with YOU!
Perhaps consider refreshing your skills this winter or bring a friend out to learn something new! Check out our 2015-2016 Course Calendar and watch for our upcoming 10 year celebration SWEEPSTAKES CONTEST’s!
AST 1 Image UPDATE
Avalanche Canada is in search of some good photos! They will be updating the AST and Companion Rescue Curriculum and are looking for our support.
They are specifically looking for:
1. Damage to building
2. Wet slabs
3. Cornice fall
4. Shallow areas, weak points
5. Terrain traps! (the more the better)
6. Trim lines
7. Variation in trees (species, age, …)
8. Photos of simple terrain
9. A good example of BTL, TL and ALP terrain (in one image)
Minimum requirements include:
Ideally, we would like these by May 1, 2015.
Please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks to those of you who have contributed and thanks to all for looking in your image library!
We are so excited to join with Chatter Creek Lodge to offer you an opportunity to do your avalanche training in a remote setting in some of the most spectacular terrain in the BC backcountry!!! If you haven’t been here before… here is an excuse!! Don’t “waste your vacation time” training… you just want to ride when you go to Chatter?… no problem… we do our classroom sessions in the evening!! SEVERAL options to make something work for you! PLEASE inquire about 2016 dates / rates and options! Coming in May! BOOK EARLY these spaces will go fast!!
1. Want to take or refresh your AST 1 skills? Join us at Chatter for evening or morning classes and ride or train in the afternoon…
2. Already taken your AST 1 Classroom? = Join us for your to complete your field day!
3. Already have your first 2 days of your AST 2? Join us to complete your last 2 days at Chatter!
4. Just want a refresher? Join us for Avalanche Companion Rescue day at Chatter!
…. other combo’s available….
I can confirm that the rumors are true… winter is far from over at higher elevations! With that comes the continued potential for natural and human triggered avalanches.
We got out for a ride near Golden yesterday. Once we hit about 1900m we started finding cold, dry snow on shaded slopes! It took a bit to readjust to brief periods of not being able to see where we were going but we did ok!
There was evidence of a recent natural avalanche cycle on many steep, open slopes in both the treeline and alpine elevation bands. Some appeared to be caused by loading from the wind, others by rapid warming on solar slopes. No matter the aspect, the failures ranged in depth from 20cm up to about 80cm in wind loaded areas. The avalanches were running on what I suspect was facets or surface hoar above a melt-freeze crust from early this month.
As we ventured further we saw first-hand how touchy this weak layer was… We’d set up shop on a piece of high ground overlooking several small play areas. One rider starting climbing a North East facing slope. Some over-the-head downhill turns encouraged another lap! After the second pass he rejoined the group and another rider took a turn, getting stuck high on the slope but easily got himself out. He headed up for another lap. During his climb back up for his third pass; another rider; not realizing he was headed back up, took a poke at the hill from the other side… Neither knew the other was there until they met near the middle of the slope while descending. Good slope test?
They both cleared the slope and met with the group about the near miss. The first rider fired back up again and took another poke. This time he climbed higher than the others, getting quite close to some rocks and the bottom of the convex portion of the slope… (read 2 common trigger points).
As he started his descent he saw the slope failing in front of him, enough snow moving to result in a healthy size 2 avalanche. He managed to accelerate away from the debris and rejoined the group.
Again, at treeline and above, winter is far from over. After such a long period of moderate to low hazard it’s easy to become complacent and not recognize the potential for avalanches the snowpack still has. Stay safe out there!