La Nina has hit the Alps as the video below attests. The season’s first fatality in Switzerland was also just reported and several hundred NW professional and recreational back country skiers and snow boarders gathered @ REI in Seattle for the Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit last Sunday.
Thanks to Micheal Jackson of ASAP and his elite volunteer staff, we experienced amazing discussions from the NW Avalanche Center’s Mark Moore and Garth Furber, Dale Atkins from Colorado and the wisdom from the Great White North came in the form of Colin Zacharis, Brad White, and Bruce Jamieson which was received with wide eyes anf thoughtful questions.
The highlights include Mark Moore explaining the increased risk or persistent weak layers in La Nina Northwest snow packs, the trials and details of the new international Danger Scale and the Northwest Avalanche Center. We learned about the new terrain warnings for Moderate and Considerable as well as how to use the Avalanche Rose forecast on the NWAC website.
Later Dale Atkins discussed behavior and survival in avalanche accidents. He offered some important research pointed out how arousal aka fresh powder eads to exploratory behavior, influencing our judgment negatively. This knowledge enforces the need to learn and conduct your back country travels with the best safety practices available. Dale also stressed companion rescue is the best hope of surviving an avalanche.
Bruce Jamieson delivered his most recent research findings that the most important observation are weather and the surface snowpack. This will help recreationalists focus their attention to what they can see and not stress about making pits to determine hazard and make decisions.
Finally Dan Otter spoke about his accident on Kendall Peak and brought home the point that best practices include continuous communication about the people, conditions and how they relate to the objective they would like to ski that day.
All in all, the take homes, avoid averages, measure exact angles where you take your observations, be humble in the face of the unknown, communicate what you know, see and feel, and use alternative plans to help mitigate the choice to go or no go with a single objective.