Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Avalanch Course Pt I: Basic Overview

I really do need to stop bemoaning my lack of skiing skills and start writing down what I actually learned which had nothing to do with skiing.

The class held by the most fabulous Babes in the Backcountry (

The instructor was actually one of the Avalanche Forecasters at Squaw which was quite the coup.

It was about

Why do we need to learn about avalanches?

In what terrain do avalanches occur?

What are the parts of an avalanche so we can talk about them and study them?

What are the classes of avalanches?
(The relative size or R scale)

How do we measure the destruction that an avalanche causes?
(The D scale)

What conditions make avalanches likely?

Weather and how it contributes

Snow types and how that contributes

Field work

Gather data from websites, and other sources.

Rescue equipment and how to use it
(transceiver, probe, shovel)

Rescue methodology (very important, and this is where the class become vital)

Terrain observation and applying what data we gathered beforehand

Explained some of Squaw's weather station instruments

Ran a lot of rescue scenarios and analysis and debrief.

Fri Kings Beach area near the cabin we were staying at.

Sat Squaw (

Here's an annotated mountain map:

Top of East Broadway lift and Shirley Lake area

Then back to Snow study area near High Camp and introl to snow pit digging

Sun KT lift (oh my freakin' god)
Avalanche rescue demo at Squaw complete with one of the avalanche rescue dogs.

Solitude a difficult blue run very steep and soft at the top very frustrating for me to get around on. (I think I'm taking up snowboarding.)
More involved scenarios
More extensive snow pit which was really cool

I could be writing for days and I'd rather not recreate an acredited course, but the basics of this information is in the book Snow Sense: A Guide to Evaluating Snow Avalanche Hazard by Jill A. Fredston, and Doug Fesler


Instead I'm just going to focus on the fun stuff. More later.

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