Take the time to practice with your transceiver early season. The snow doesn’t have to be deep. Here’s a quick run down of what we start with early season.
Pay attention to early season snow. This can build the foundation of your season’s snowpack. Here are a few reasons why avalanche professionals start paying attention as soon as the first snowfall happens.
We hope you enjoyed this activity. The exercises are meant to prepare you for a trip into a lodge in the future.
The following video offers some tips and tricks for snow crystal ID. This is something that people often struggle with. THIS VIDEO IS OPTIONAL. The goal of this talk is to help you build a foundation before arriving at the course. After you watch this video, take time to practice crystal ID in the field, whether it’s in the backcountry, at the ski area, or out your front door.
Here is a link to the International Classification for Seasonal Snow on the Ground This link offers further descriptions for improved crystal ID, as well as additional photos.Toggle panel: Restrict this content
Before heading out into the backcountry, it is important to ask, “Is the weather contributing to instability?” The weather can directly contribute to instability with new snow, strong winds, and/or warming temperatures.
Tracking the weather throughout the season can highlight additional ways that the weather may contribute to instability over a longer time period. Weak layers, such as facets and surface hoar, can be formed during periods of cold, clear, and calm weather. These weak layers become problematic when they are buried.
A season long view of the weather history can help to pick out trends. Season histories can also be very useful if headed into a new area.
Here is a video discussion weather factors to pay attention to, as well as information on why we track season history.
How do you assess the snowpack? What factors are you paying attention to when you’re doing a stability test?
In snowpack assessment, we think about strength, structure, propagation, and friction.
Digging snow pits can be time consuming, especially when you are learning. More often than not, you are not going to stop on a ski tour and dig a full profile. It is likely that you will focus on digging a test pit. The goal is to understand what the weakest layer is, the depth and distribution of this weak layer, how much force it takes to fail, and does the failure propagate? Efficiency takes practice.
When digging a test pit (or any pit, for that matter), the pit should be placed in an area that is safe, representative and polite.
The goal of a test pit is a focused analysis. What’s the weakest layer? How much force does it take to fail? Does the failure propagate?
Watch the following video to learn more about how Don Sharaf executes a test pit.
There is a lot of teaching and talking in this video. With practice, you should be able to get a lot of good snowpack information in 5-15 minutes. You may discover an instability and experience a propagating ECT. This information may lead you to back off of a slope. Even with less conclusive results, the more you dig each day, the better understanding you gain of current stability.
Being prepared for a rescue is important. We will review basic transceiver use and introduce strategies for managing multiple burials in the field. We will also go through a variety of rescue scenarios.
Snow is a dynamic medium. It is both temperature and rate sensitive. It is a lot like silly putty. It can flow when stressed slowly, and it can fracture when stressed quickly.
In the following video, Dave Kikkert will talk through some of the properties of snow and how they affect touring and stability assessment in the mountains.
How do we use the avalanche hazard forecast, current avalanche problems, and current snow and weather observations to put a plan together? The AAI Backcountry Checklist offers a systematic approach to a tour day. It can help us plan and execute an appropriate tour for the day.
We built this checklist because most of us do most of these things most of the time. The goal of the checklist is to help all of us do all of these things all of the time.