Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't Let This Be You

Snow has finally arrived in the Wasatch and powder fever is at an all time high after months of withdrawal.  In the sidecountry and backcountry, steep, untracked powder is everywhere and, as noted by the Utah Avalanche Center this morning, it's only a matter of time before people start to push it out into avalanche terrain (I suspect it is happening already).  The temptation is going to be great.

However, the weak, faceted snow that formed over the past few weeks is not going away quickly.  Where it exists, it is going to persist.  A Russian roulette snowpack will likely be around for quite a while, as we discussed way back in November.

Now is a good time to remind everybody that the vast majority of fatal avalanche accidents happen on days with considerable or high avalanche hazard (Greene et al. 2006).

Source: Greene et al. (2006)
In most instances, the victim was aware of the avalanche hazard, but elected to recreate in avalanche terrain anyway.  The lure of powder is great.  Don't let this be you.  See McCammon (2004) for a summary of some of the human factors that contribute to avalanche accidents.

Addendum @ 9:30 AM

Just remembered that the UAC has some additional discussion of these issues here, including statistics for avalanche fatalities (I believe for Utah) showing a pronounced peak in the considerable category.

Source: Utah Avalanche Center
Have a look.

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