Monday, February 24, 2014

Avalanches

My brother texted me the other day to ask if I was anywhere close to all the avalanches.  There was something about the text that made me realize that he didn't get it.  The avalanches are everywhere.  If the slope angle and conditions are right, the snow could run.  It was funny to me, because I realized that he doesn't usually think about avalanches unless they are being especially deadly and making it to the news.  Then it was even funnier to realize that a few short years ago, I never thought about them either.
I remember one of the first outdoor classes that I took here, and they started talking about avalanches and "terrain traps" and I got totally overwhelmed.

Now, it's a part of life.  It is a part of my weekend planning.  Am I going in the backcountry? Depends on what the avy danger is (and I know how to read an avy rose on the website).  Honestly, I don't know enough to risk the backcountry most weeks when avy danger is high, so I pick an area that is not prone to slide and usually is not in the backcountry.  If I do go to the backcountry, I always go with someone and we all have beacons, probes and shovels.

I have never seen an avalanche slide, and while I wouldn't mind seeing one someday, I'd like for it to be on a distant and vacant slope, thankyouverymuch.  It is fun to look for old slides along the drive to wherever you are going, see how deep the crown (top where the snow breaks off) is, whether it is fresh or several weeks old.

Like anything, you have to respect the forces of nature, but it doesn't mean you can't go play in the snow.  As for me for right now, I'll be sticking to my groomed trails on terrain that is well under 40 degrees (the optimal slope to slide is 37 degrees) and I'll listen to the distant boom of the avalanche blasting at the ski resorts, and that's as close as I'll get. Somehow, there is something about it all that makes me love the mountains even more.

3 comments:

  1. I have to admit that I've never really given any thought whatsoever to avalanches. Thanks for an informative post!

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  2. I like how you said "You have to respect the forces of nature"...yes...that is sooooo true! When I see a bad storm coming...I try not to be out in it. I go to my basement and hide.

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  3. This falls into the category of "you learn something new every day"...so cool! But yes, I am glad you stay away from them and don't go looking for them. I mean, are there such things as "avalanche chasers", like "tornado chasers"...just curious.

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