Backcountry Newbie - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 11-26-2010   #1
 
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 10
Backcountry Newbie

Scoring on a way cool at package and getting ready to go. Any thoughts on what I should look at? classes to take? additional/essential backcountry gear? I definately don't want to become a statistic. Thanks

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Old 11-26-2010   #2
 
Andy H.'s Avatar
 
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,634
Friends of Berthoud Pass is doing intro Avy classes that'll be a good start, also check out the CAIC (click the "partners" tab on the light blue bar above and scroll down to the Friends of CAIC link). Go talk to the folks at Bent Gate or anywhere else you can get the gear - they'll steer you in the right direction.

You asked for thoughts on avalanche safety - here they are:

Play beeper games with the friends you'll ski with (you don't need snow on the ground to play hide-and-seek so there's really no excuse to start practicing as soon as you bring it home...) and make sure you all know how to use them well. And then make sure you'll never have to.

If someone in your party has to go get help to locate you, you'll probably be dead by the time help arrives even if you're just outside the ski area boundary. Your only real chance of being recovered alive is by members of your party.

Which reminds me, the only thing you can count on a RECCO device to do is minimize the manpower and expense of your body recovery.

Speaking of body recovery, lots of times that's all that beeper and shovel are good for. I'm not sure what the current stats are but the rule of thumb I learned is there's only a 50% chance of a live recovery within the first 30 minutes, then a roughly exponential decrease thereafter (25% after one hour, 12.5% after 1.5 hrs, etc.). All the beepers, shovels, and probe poles the world won't save someone that's dead from trauma or has hard-packed snow in every orifice.

Year in, year out, Colorado's usually got one of the deadliest snowpacks of anywhere in the world that people ski often. Skiing the kind of terrain they ski in the movies, and skiing it the way they ski it (everyone at once) will get you killed here - because down at the bottom of Colorado's mid-continent snowpack, there's usually a layer of temperature gradient (TG) snow remaining from last October or November. This layer can last until March or April or May and when the snow above fractures down to that layer, it'll act like ball bearings.

Just because its a zoo scene on Loveland Pass doesn't mean its all safe. Just because there were tracks on a run yesterday doesn't mean it won't slide today. Bump runs have slid to the ground before.

Never drop in on a pitch your gut tells you is dodgy just because everyone in your party has beepers and shovels.

If the snow is deep enough to ski, steep enough for a thrill, and long enough to link a few turns, its deep enough, steep enough, and long enough to slide and kill you.

If the trees are spaced far apart enough to be good skiing, don't count on them to anchor the snow and keep it from avalanching - and you REALLY don't want to be carried by an avalanche through the trees.

Never think you can outrun an avalanche. If you're lucky you may be able to ski off to the side and out of the path.

That light, fluffy snow you're postholing through and submarining your skis in? When it stops moving it can set up firm enough to walk around on top of and you probably won't be able to move any part of your body that's more than a few inches below the surface.

Just because your buddy(s) just skiied a pitch doesn't mean it won't avalanche when you ski it.

Unless you know you're out of the slide path, standing at the bottom of the pitch and watching your buddy ski down to you is a really bad idea.

Always be ready to turn around and go ski something mellower or just take your skin track back down to the car if the snow's not safe. If your ski buddies call you a pussy because you don't want to ski something, you've got the wrong ski buddies.

Slab avalanche - imagine getting carried down the hill with blocks of snow as big, hard and heavy as refrigerators and washing machines.

The air blast ahead of a powder avalanche can mangle steel reinforced concrete without the snow actually reaching it. The powder avalanche itself can pack your windpipe and sinuses with snow and pull a ski boot off your foot.

Wet snow avalanche (spring time threat) - imagine a wall of concrete moving down the hill, then imagine being buried by it, then imagine it setting up in seconds when it comes to a stop.

Ride the chairs when its dumping and ski the backcountry after the snow's had a chance to settle.

Just because lots of people have been lucky (me included), survived really major slides and lived after doing really stupid stuff, doesn't mean you will.

Powder turns aren't worth dying for and the words "he died doing what he loved" won't console your loved ones.

Did I say you should never let your beeper and shovel give you a false sense of security?

Next time you hear of an avalanche fatality, imagine the scene of your family being the ones that someone has to break the news to, and keep imagining it for a while.

Learn before you go, go with someone that's got experience, don't go alone. And remember, in case of an avalanche the best place to be is somewhere else.

Be safe out there,

-AH
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Old 11-27-2010   #3
 
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at my house, Montana
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Beeper games/hide and seek. One way to do that is to get up on top of a hill (preferrably with trees), and put your transceiver in a nerf football of something. Tape it up, and lob it down the hill without looking. That way no one really knows where it is, and even if there is snow you probably won't see the track which would give it away.
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Old 11-27-2010   #4
 
The next zone, .
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Take a full blown avy level 1 class you will learn a ton and meet good people.

The single day classes offered are ok but if you are serious - get out of the front range/summit county scene and take one with either Silverton Avalanche School, the nation's most respected avalanche education since 1962 (silverton avy school) or Crested Butte Mountain Guides (CB mountain guides)...

Both of these classes are offered in the best natural classrooms that colorado has to offer and you will learn a lot more than in one of the day long "mass introduction" classes..
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Old 11-27-2010   #5
 
Evergreen, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2008
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Or for a bit closer class check out Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol out of Fort Collins. Avalanche Level I Course

I took their class and I thought it was great.
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Old 11-27-2010   #6
 
lmyers's Avatar
 
Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 4,769
Quote:
Originally Posted by RDNEK View Post
Take a full blown avy level 1 class you will learn a ton and meet good people.

The single day classes offered are ok but if you are serious - get out of the front range/summit county scene and take one with either Silverton Avalanche School, the nation's most respected avalanche education since 1962 (silverton avy school) or Crested Butte Mountain Guides (CB mountain guides)...

Both of these classes are offered in the best natural classrooms that colorado has to offer and you will learn a lot more than in one of the day long "mass introduction" classes..
This is probably the best advice you will get. The front range classes are good...but these are the 2 best. Use the connections you make to hook up with a solid crew, keep an open mind, and continue learning each time your in the backcountry.
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Old 11-27-2010   #7
 
bldrmorgan's Avatar
 
On the Highway, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 166
G Unit-
All of this advice is good. I would also suggest picking up the book "Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain" written by Bruce Tremper LINK

Basically be a sponge to any safety info you come across and practice often.

With that said, I'm a newbie as well and am looking for people to do a bit of beacon practice with out on the front range. Hit me up if you are interested.
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Old 11-27-2010   #8
 
freexbiker's Avatar
 
B.F.E., Wyoming
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 907
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy H. View Post
If someone in your party has to go get help to locate you, you'll probably be dead by the time help arrives even if you're just outside the ski area boundary. Your only real chance of being recovered alive is by members of your party.

Just because its a zoo scene on Loveland Pass doesn't mean its all safe. Just because there were tracks on a run yesterday doesn't mean it won't slide today. Bump runs have slid to the ground before.

Never drop in on a pitch your gut tells you is dodgy just because everyone in your party has beepers and shovels.

If the snow is deep enough to ski, steep enough for a thrill, and long enough to link a few turns, its deep enough, steep enough, and long enough to slide and kill you.


Unless you know you're out of the slide path, standing at the bottom of the pitch and watching your buddy ski down to you is a really bad idea.

Always be ready to turn around and go ski something mellower or just take your skin track back down to the car if the snow's not safe. If your ski buddies call you a pussy because you don't want to ski something, you've got the wrong ski buddies.

The powder avalanche itself can pack your windpipe and sinuses with snow and pull a ski boot off your foot.

Did I say you should never let your beeper and shovel give you a false sense of security?

Learn before you go, go with someone that's got experience, don't go alone.
Good Post Andy. Colored for importance.

My additional thoughts...

Learn to dig pits. Learn the snow layers. Learn where the most common fractures occur. (ie: depth hoar, ice layers, wind crust, ...)

Before dropping in, plan the descent with your 2 or more partners. Find your safe zones, if your shooting for an air make sure to let your partners know that(landing zones make for great trigger points, especially when a 150-200 pound person has slapped all their force into the snowpack).

Always always do a Beacon check as you are walking out of the parking lot.

That 38 degree side country slope is just as prone to sliding as the same slope 40 miles away from the ski area. Carry your gear if you are ever planning on skipping ropes.

I like a school bus length between me and other people on the way up.

Take an avy 1 class and make sure to practice everything you learn in it.

Asphyxiation sucks and life is good. Take this stuff seriously and you'll have lots of good times in the BC.
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Old 11-28-2010   #9
 
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 10
Thanks for all the beta, lots of good stuff and things to think about and learn. Thanks again stay safe out there
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