telemark skiingbackcountry skiingPacific NorthwestWashington and Oregonweather linksThe Yuki AwardsMt. Rainier and Mt. Adams
Turns All Year
www.turns-all-year.com
  Help | Search | Login | Register
Turns All Year Trip Reports
Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
11/23/17, 03:49 PM

Become a TAY Sponsor!
 
Trip Reports Sponsor
Marmot Mountain Works
Marmot Mountain Works
Turns All Year Trip Reports
(1) Viewing these pages constitutes your acceptance of the Terms of Use.
(2) Disclaimer: the accuracy of information here is unknown, use at your own risk.
(3) Trip Report monthly boards: only actual trip report starts a new thread.
(4) Keep it civil and constructive - that is the norm here.
 
FOAC Snow
Info Exchange


NWAC Avalanche
Forecast
+  Turns All Year Trip Reports
|-+  Hot Air
| |-+  Weak Layers: decision making in avalanche terrain
| | |-+  Lessons Learned about near-miss avy incidents
:
« previous next »
Pages: [1] | Go Down Print
Author Topic: Lessons Learned about near-miss avy incidents  (Read 6009 times)
freeski
Member
Offline

Posts: 531


Lessons Learned about near-miss avy incidents
« on: 10/30/14, 02:39 PM »

I tried to post an article here about "lessons learned" and it will not make it past some roadblock. I obtained permission from the author to post this here. Since I can not delete this thread, I thought I would offer this explanation. The article concerned ski professionals and appeared in the print version of the "Avalanche Review" but did not make it to the on line version of that publication.
 
Try this link where I posted it over at NWhikers.

http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?p=970626#970626
« Last Edit: 04/05/17, 01:52 PM by freeski » Logged

two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege, it will always be at the expense of truth and justice
C Hedges
freeski
Member
Offline

Posts: 531


Re: lessons learned
« Reply #1 on: 04/05/17, 01:28 PM »

   
 Back when I posted this at NWhikers, I obtained permission from the author to post it. As you may recall, TAY was having problems with posting back then.

Since this will one of the issues that I will be addressing with the USFS-OIG, I thought that I'd update this thread.


Lessons Learned
GNFAC Professional Development Workshop


On March 6, 2013, members of the southwest Montana snow and avalanche community assembled in Bozeman to participate in the fourth annual Professional Development Workshop hosted by the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.

The day-long workshop featured a medley of presenters with broad expertise in snow and avalanche research, avalanche forecasting, ski patrolling, ski guiding, avalanche education, mountain search and rescue operations, and institutional risk management within the scope of outdoor education and recreation.

Titled “Lessons Learned," the workshop was essentially a compilation of personal incident accounts in which significant injury or loss due to avalanche hazard occurred or was narrowly avoided.

Throughout the day, many themes emerged, the most consistent of which was the simple truth that, regardless of years of experience, even the most renowned and experienced practitioners in the field of snow and avalanches are not immune to making mistakes.  Efforts are made to maintain the highest standard of safety possible, and our professional community has made great strides in understanding the dynamic behaviors of snow and avalanches.  Nevertheless, we continue to chart unknown territory, and the eerie reality of trial and error remains.  By shining a spotlight on errors and miscalculations, and by being accountable for analyzing our mistakes, great contributions are made to this field.

The workshop began with Drew Leemon’s presentation entitled Risk Management: The NOLS Perspective. By sharing the ins and outs of the NOLS risk management system, long-time risk management director Leemon established a foundational framework for the workshop.  With 28 years of incident data that documents remote rescues, medical emergencies, evacuations, and “near misses," NOLS analyzes risk and safety practices constantly and has established risk management as a core component of its institutional culture.  With such an extensive incident database, NOLS has established a systematic incident review process.  Through documenting, categorizing, and analyzing incidents, NOLS can learn from experience, strive for self-improvement, and continuously revise institutional program standards when necessary. Leemon broke the ice and set a standard of transparency and critical self-analysis for the rest of the workshop speakers.

As Randy Elliot put it so bluntly, “If you can’t be good, be lucky." Listening to renowned avalanche practitioners recount heart-pounding stories of narrowly avoiding getting caught in avalanches is unnerving.  But, in recognizing how dynamic and complex the winter backcountry environment is, sometimes lessons are just learned the hard way and, as Karl Birkeland said, “as professionals, we need to recognize when we have close calls and change our behavior.”  Workshop speakers, fortunately for all in attendance, walked away from their near-miss incidents informed, grateful, and better prepared for the future. 

A recurring theme of the workshop was the importance of terrain selection.  As Doug Chabot and Eric Knoff learned on several occasions, appropriate terrain selection is crucial when digging snowpits.  Speaking about a slope outside of Cooke City, MT that he and his partner named “Almost Died," Chabot pointed out that it is never worth risking your life or your partners' lives (much less both at the same time) in order to collect data.  In support of Chabot's views, Karl Birkeland stressed the significance of route selection and stressed the importance of ascending slopes by the safest up-track possible.  Long-time Big Sky snow safety director Jon Ueland underscored the importance of always choosing islands of safety that will offer real protection. “You only know you are in a safe zone if all the snow around you disappears and you are still standing,” he said.

Professionalism and the importance of communication came up time and again throughout the workshop. Decisions made and opinions expressed by professionals carry great significance and can and should have a disproportionate influence on the safety and well being of others.  As Nick Meyers, Mike Buotte, and Lynne Wolfe all noted, good communication skills are essential for avalanche control work, when discussing and analyzing the stability of the snowpack, or when simply working with a partner or team in an intense situation.

The familiarity professionals develop with a season’s snowpack or specific terrain can often pose a dangerous sense of overconfidence.  As Karl Birkeland attested, it is so important to be thinking about the worst-case scenario and to be intentional with whom you travel in avalanche terrain.  "Ski with a partner who will be thinking about avalanches and skiing appropriately,” he advised.  And, as Nick Meyers suggested, “Ask yourself: are my thoughts, words, actions an asset or liability to the situation?”

An additional theme that surfaced was the fundamental importance of recognizing and assessing the type of avalanche problem you are dealing with.  According to Rod Newcomb, professionals need to be aware that they often analyze the snowpack only from their scope of experience.  Instead, he urged professionals to have heightened awareness of obscure and unfamiliar conditions, and to recognize that even the most experienced avalanche practitioners may still be novices to what can happen.  Obscure and unexpected conditions are often responsible for close calls and fatalities involving professionals.  However, depth hoar, he asserted, is the primary avalanche problem associated with patroller fatalities. According to Newcomb, a reliable rule of thumb with regard to depth hoar and depth hoar-like snowpacks is always "to expect the crown and the slide to exceed your expectation of how far it will propagate, and how large the slide will be.”

Experience with obscure stability conditions offered other workshop lessons.  Doug Chabot recounted a near miss during which he learned that even low density, powder snow can act as a slab and produce avalanches.  In reflecting on the 1996-97 winter avalanche that demolished the Shedhorn Lift at Big Sky, Scott Savage learned never to trust a rapid load on ice, a crust, or a hard surface, regardless of whether or not facets exist at the slab-weak layer interface.  And, regardless of what kind of avalanche problem is believed to be present, Lynne Wolfe urged professionals to ask: “How detectable is the problem?” and “How manageable is the problem?” with the intention of forming an honest, specific, and unbiased opinion of current snowpack stability.  Professionals often tend to overestimate manageability; even a small avalanche can pack quite a punch.

As risk management practices develop and become ever more ingrained in the work of outdoor professionals, “near miss” or close call incidents (in which significant injury or loss is narrowly avoided) have become focused opportunities for learning.  However, the negative repercussions for outdoor professionals of such incidents -- which range from embarrassment to the  loss of a job -- are not pleasant to contemplate.  Putting egos aside, the workshop speakers recognized the obvious truth that if you end up spending years in avalanche terrain, accidents will occur, and sooner or later you are bound to make a mistake. 

For more information, visit the GNFAC video archive on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/AvalancheGuys where all the workshop presentations may be seen.



Bio:

Andrew Kiefer graduated from Prescott College this past spring and attended the professional development workshop during his internship with the GNFAC.

 
 
« Last Edit: 04/05/17, 01:32 PM by freeski » Logged

two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege, it will always be at the expense of truth and justice
C Hedges
freeski
Member
Offline

Posts: 531


Re: lessons learned
« Reply #2 on: 04/05/17, 01:34 PM »

And here is a perspective on this issue and a quote from that blog post.

http://www.alanarnette.com/blog/2014/01/15/everest-2014-guides-disclose-deaths/

"Everest 2014: Should Guides Disclose Deaths?
Jan 152014
Twice while I was on an expedition a team member died. The guide company never mentioned it publicly. Were they correct? Let’s look at this in detail as it happens more than you know and there are two sides to this argument."

Logged

two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege, it will always be at the expense of truth and justice
C Hedges
freeski
Member
Offline

Posts: 531


Re: lessons learned
« Reply #3 on: 04/05/17, 01:37 PM »

And here is what every client should know, from a guide companies perspective and a quote dfrom that article;

http://www.sierramtnguides.com/a-case-for-guide-certification-from-the-sierra/


"A case for guide certification from the Sierra
In From the Range of Light & Fast by Howie SchwartzMay 16, 2014111 Comments
Today I ran into a local climber and mountain enthusiast in the Black Sheep Coffeehouse in Bishop. She worked for us as a porter and as a camp cook last summer, and I asked if she might be interested and available for some of that work again. She said “yes” but she explained that she just took a Wilderness First Responder course and has been hired by another local mountain guide service as a guide, specifically for trips on Mt. Whitney and in the Palisades. She has had no mountain guide training, and limited alpine climbing experience."
Logged

two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege, it will always be at the expense of truth and justice
C Hedges
Pages: [1] | Go Up Print 
« previous next »
Jump to:  



Login with username, password and session length

Thank you to our sponsors!
click to visit our sponsor: Feathered Friends
Feathered Friends
click to visit our sponsor: Marmot Mountain Works
Marmot Mountain Works
click to visit our sponsor: Second Ascent
Second Ascent
click to visit our sponsor: American Alpine Institute
American Alpine Institute
click to visit our sponsor: Pro Guiding Service
Pro Guiding Service
Contact turns-all-year.com

Turns All Year Trip Reports ©2001-2010 Turns All Year LLC. All Rights Reserved

The opinions expressed in posts are those of the poster and do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of Trip Reports administrators or Turns All Year LLC


Turns All Year Trip Reports | Powered by SMF 1.0.6.
© 2001-2005, Lewis Media. All Rights Reserved.