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Author Topic: Avalanche Discussion Experiment  (Read 12785 times)
Marcus
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Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« on: 12/01/11, 11:37 AM »

The idea for this board has been brewing for a while and the kickstart to actually put it up came from a number of folks who were looking for a place to have "roundtable" discussions about avalanche risk, hazard mitigation, accident analysis, etc...  They decided that finding a home for it online would reach a lot more folks and allow much greater participation, so here we are with the "Weak Layers" experiment.

This is not intended to be a conditions-reporting venue, since TRs are good for that, but rather a place to discuss how we manage our risk as we travel in or around avalanche terrain.  The human factors that influence risk management are probably the biggest part of why it was created, since they, more than anything else, seem to play a big role in so many accidents and near-misses.

This is all an experiment, but hopefully it can be a useful tool for folks looking to learn and share their experiences.  I'm open to suggestions on how it may best be used.
« Last Edit: 12/02/11, 08:05 AM by Marcus » Logged
jhamaker
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Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #1 on: 12/04/11, 12:19 PM »

Anyone dug to the ground this December 2011?  Is our snopack still sitting on sugar/hoar/ nasty stuff?
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Marcus
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Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #2 on: 12/13/11, 10:31 AM »

Split the weak layer discussion that Cookie and Gary had going to here:

http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/index.php?topic=22760.0
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JibberD
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Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #3 on: 12/28/12, 08:51 AM »

Great idea Marcus.

Since I am pretty rusty on all of this, I'd be interested to see some pre-ski best practices checklists from people.

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-Doug O
JibberD
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Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #4 on: 12/30/12, 08:52 AM »

My basic checklists:

Partners and personal rules
*Ski only with partners whose skills and judgement I know and trust.
*Ski with folks who abide by the weakest skier sets the pace and tone rule (this person may change, as one skier may not be a strong climber, another may not feel safe in certain terrain, etc.).
*Do not ski with strong, young, ambitious males who need the space to chart their own courses. I am too boring for them anyway.
*Avoid tours that involve exposure (cliffs).

Pre ski weather and avalanche forecast checks
*Follow weather and snow conditions on NWAC and via TAY trip reports days before the planned trip.
*Print the latest NWAC avy forecast the night before the ski day. Don't go if avy rating is high or above; considerable, address this with partners and make a decision. If going, discuss safer aspects and slope angles to visit.
*Review weather forecast. If high winds and or heavy, wet precip coming, stay home.

Gear
*Check beacon batteries and replace if lower than 90% charge. Carry spares.
*Keep shovel, probe, extra clothes, emergency food and bottle of water in pack at all times.
*Ensure cell phone is fully charged.
*Compass and map of area.

At mountain
*Group beacon check at parking area.
*Personnel check at parking area, does anyone seem unmotivated or tired, anyone supercharged-
*Group check-in on basic tour overview and why that course (implies this has been thought out by a knowledgeable person).

OK, I will stop here, knowing I am not going into the actual on-slope safety work (pits, ski cuts, observing snow pack behavior, spacing, buddy system). Someone else more qualified might add this technical stuff. My personal opinion is the decisions made before getting to skiable slopes should be designed to keep away from dangerous snowpacks in the first place. That said, I am in no way saying that field checks and climbing/skiing protocols are not necessary. For the record, my standard is the column compression and shear test. But I'd really like to hear from others on this piece...

So there's a start... Feel free to have at it, fill in the gaps, etc...
« Last Edit: 12/30/12, 09:10 AM by JibberD » Logged

-Doug O
GraupelGrandpa
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Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #5 on: 01/07/13, 05:20 PM »

this is a topic of great interest to me... I became AIARE certified to teach courses last winter and was at first a bit disenchanted with their rigid "decision making framework" (DMF) and proposed grid-pattern thought process that would almost surely be dismissed the first tour beyond the class by a certain demographic of backcountry skiers.

Certainly, the established backcountry culture in Washington (that, it seems to me, to be a bit more aged relative to the young 'freeriders' crawling all over more developed ranges like the Wasatch - my other range) may strictly adhere to the DMF as they venture forth.

However the DMF, I believe ignores the culture of Rad, the culture of Ego that permeates ski and mountain culture. I understand what the DMF strives to do and I support that, but I believe there needs to be a long conversation that caters to young, mostly male resort skiers that will surely be in step behind the mountain community of the Wasatch - which is a microcosm of what backcountry travel will look like as mountains everywhere become more crowded.

My ideas to approach this culture with students is to:

1) ask them if they have a "list". Those skiers that do and do not have this "list" are of entirely different psychological camps. The culture of the objective: that either applies to you or it doesn't, or it doesn't yet.

2) Find various creative ways to quiz students on their capacity for risk. I am still brainstorming ways to evoke more profound and truthful responses that may in the end surprise the individuals themselves. Or it could be as simple as asking them what's on their list.

That's it for now.. I would love to hear what yall think. Another thing I would love to see in this forum are accounts from people who have been in avalanche accidents in regards to the group psychology (alpha leaders, group pressure etc) prior to the accident. Please?!! thanks, I have an essay about a close call I had on The Arm that I will try to post here.

Cheers.
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ski2fly
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Posts: 110


Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #6 on: 01/11/13, 04:56 PM »

Hi all, although I have hit TAY on and off for years, I decide to join so I could jump into the fray.
I am sure many here have read the accident summaries on NWAC, but if not you should. They are a great insight into the human factor. I read back several years and there is some really good insight and lessons to be learned that go beyond the technical aspect of risk assessment.

Cheers!

find them here:
http://www.nwac.us/accidents/
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Mattski
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Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #7 on: 01/11/13, 06:09 PM »

I attached the Communication Checklist use by AIARE. It is intended to prompt conversation about Teamwork, Planning and Observing in the field to facilitate a good decision. As for what young versus old need, I firmly believe they just need to talk to each other about the above.

Accidents all lack the same thing, communication. There is an absence of verbal communication that leads to people continuing in dangerous terrain without everyone in their party aware or in agreement with the course of the day. This checklist is a prompt, not a script so all age groups can use it amongst their peers and workout a plan and make sure they are on the same page regarding where they are going, how they are doing and if the conditions still match the terrain they selected.

Try it and let me know what you think.


* Screen_Shot_2013-01-11_at_5.37.30_PM.png (78.38 KB, 374x494 - viewed 2668 times.)
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JibberD
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Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #8 on: 01/13/13, 11:19 AM »

I attached the Communication Checklist use by AIARE. It is intended to prompt conversation about Teamwork, Planning and Observing in the field to facilitate a good decision. As for what young versus old need, I firmly believe they just need to talk to each other about the above.

Accidents all lack the same thing, communication. There is an absence of verbal communication that leads to people continuing in dangerous terrain without everyone in their party aware or in agreement with the course of the day. This checklist is a prompt, not a script so all age groups can use it amongst their peers and workout a plan and make sure they are on the same page regarding where they are going, how they are doing and if the conditions still match the terrain they selected.

Try it and let me know what you think.

thanks mattski. this is a good tool, i'll try it out.
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-Doug O
Chamois
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Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #9 on: 01/22/13, 09:27 AM »

Useful information here:

http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/19276517/1986302166/name/Transceivers.pdf

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ADappen
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Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #10 on: 03/23/15, 08:16 AM »

I've pasted in article below posted here on the Colorado Avalanche Information Center by Blase Reardon that ties into this thread and has me thinking about what personal practices may not be as safe as my rationalization has me believing.

Good Driver Discount

A recent conversation illuminated how people can perceive the risk involved in their decisions and actions very differently than others do. The subject was driving skills, but it could just as well have been backcountry travel. I’ll paraphrase the conversation, and I have slightly altered and exaggerated some details in the interest of making a point.

The conversation was prompted by a comment that a friend wouldn’t have to speed on her morning commute if she left home 15 minutes earlier. She offered a spirited defense of her driving. “Speed limits are suggestions. There’s no need to drive less than 5 mph over the speed limit if there’s no inclement weather. People that drive less than the speed limit are dangerous.”

Her audience wasn’t buying it, so she escalated her defense. “I’m a good driver. I’ve only had one wreck. And that was because of black ice.” The car incurred damages of $10000, but she only paid the deductible, so it didn’t count as a serious accident in her mind. “And two tickets.”, she added.

It came out that she’d only learned to drive in 2009. A listener pointed out that three incidents in five years was a pretty high rate of getting into trouble. She argued that the second ticket shouldn’t count, as she was speeding to pass a semi. “Don’t you think that driving next to a semi is unsafe?” she asked the trooper. She threw in that it was her birthday, but he gave her a ticket anyway. “I couldn’t flirt my way out of it, like I had other times.” The �other times� were three more traffic stops in which she hadn’t gotten a ticket. That meant a rate of more than one incident for each year of driving.

“That’s not bad. I’m a good driver.” Someone noted that some people go their whole lives without a ticket or an accident. “They’re probably the people going 10 mph below the speed limit and making it dangerous for everyone else.”

She then told a story about driving 100 mph on I-70 in a borrowed Audi because the car is designed to hold the road better at high speeds. She offered to drive anyone home. There were no takers.

My friend seemed to feel that deft car-handling skills equate to safety. Many of her defenses sound familiar; I’ve heard similar sentiments in conversations about skiing and riding in the backcountry. Somehow, the unintentionally-triggered slides and the near misses don’t count because of some circumstance specific to that incident. They become confirmation of skills rather than lessons. An avalanche flank 15 feet from your track isn’t a close call; it’s proof you knew how to pick your line. Flawed conclusions like that are easy to draw in a wicked environment like the backcountry, where irregular feedback promotes learning the wrong lessons from our experiences, and encourages an illusion of skill.

I don’t know whether my friend drives as recklessly as she sounded in that conversation. Nor the balance of over-confidence and expertise of anyone I meet in the backcountry. I do know I aim to second-guess my own claims to expertise and skill. I try to imagine what they’d sound like out of context, after an accident perhaps. Andre Roch's famous quote, purportedly made after one of his own near-misses, applies here: “The avalanche doesn’t know that you are an expert.” It’s the quality of situation-specific decisions that matters. And every close call counts. The backcountry doesn’t offer a good-driver discount.
« Last Edit: 03/23/15, 08:19 AM by ADappen » Logged
nordique
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Posts: 84


Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #11 on: 11/13/15, 02:44 PM »

Very interesting piece here:

http://backcountrymagazine.com/stories/mountain-skills-understanding-the-avalanche-problem/
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ChuckM
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Re: Avalanche Discussion Experiment
« Reply #12 on: 11/16/15, 07:25 AM »

The Avalanche Review is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to read past and present articles on decision making and human factors in avalanche terrain.

http://www.americanavalancheassociation.org/tar-archives/
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