Forums Splitboard Talk Forum The Numbers Game
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    1514 Posts

    @killclimbz wrote:

    Perhaps it is a discussion better left for a different thread or offline. I have my thoughts, but this is not the place to express them.

    I too, am having a hard time coming to grips with this and the entire season in general.

    A lot of times when we lose people in the mountains you can point to the obvious errors… high avalanche warning, excessive risk taking, cluelessness, whatever.

    Losing RandoSteve is unhinging, not just from the personal loss for those who loved him or those like me who just enjoyed following his exploits online. This person was a careful, skilled, consumate mountaineer at the peak of his game climbing with one other person under moderate avy risk.

    And it reminds you of all those other mountaineering losses… people like Doug Coombs, Trevor Peterson, etc. We lose a lot of very good people still in their prime.

    We like to think that we control our destiny but the reality in the mountains is that we accept a certain amount of objective risk… risk that is outside our control. Rockfall bounces down the very couloirs that we climb, cornices drop, slopes fail, tiny mistakes can have big consequences. The more you play, the greater your chances of rolling snake eyes.

    I told my girlfriend about Steve Romeo last night and his circumstances and she said ‘so… is it just a big numbers game?’ Sometimes its hard to explain why we play it…

    @nomad wrote:

    @wyomingsplit_ride wrote:

    I just keep wondering where Steve would want us to go from here?

    I’ve been wondering the same thing – and I think it’s definitely a discussion worth having.

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

    601 Posts

    @sanfrantastico wrote:

    Sometimes its hard to explain why we play it…

    Yea. There’s this pull to going out there.
    “I don’t want it. I just need it. To breathe, To feel, to know I’m alive.” – Tool

    I don’t have an answer for you, but I know more of us need to read your comment and think.

    At least twice the season on the same hairy ascent, because of a few JJones videos I saw a while back, I turned around mid-slope and ended up on my sofa sharing a bottle of wine with my wife. . . And it turned out it was the right choice.

    Be sure to bookmark's Recent Activity page...

    127 Posts

    Nothing personal, but I strongly disagree that it’s a “numbers game”. If you make a habit of riding big, steep terrain when conditions are questionable, then maybe your number will eventually come up (I make no judgement of people who chose to do this). If you’re patient, flexible, educated, and respectful of the mountain environment then you’ll likely live a long and fruitful life.

    Are you a lifer? Are you bummed if every day out isn’t steep and deep? Have you ever been buried? How many of your friends have died or been seriously fucked up? Did this change your behavior?

    I have no answers, but as someone who spends as much time as possible in the backcountry, I do think about this stuff a lot. I think that riding in all conditions can be educational, backing off is not failure, and that there will always be another line or powder day better than todays’.

    Stay safe splitters.

    570 Posts

    Personal assessment of the risk/reward scenario is pretty much what drives most of us – I think. The lines of powder that await in that magic place vs. the hazards of making it happen. Each of has our own parameters. Each day offers variables in that assessment on both sides of the equation. To a certain extent experiences of pushing the envelope can help us make somewhat misguided decisions. Group think helps us make bad decisions. The work cycle helps us make bad decisions – ie. “I haven’t been out in 2 weeks and I only have today to go do something & I’ve had this trip planned for weeks now” kind of thinking.

    For me personally – the kiting thing has been my salvation this year. I think I would have been pushing the risk side of the equation if I didn’t have that option. Early on – as the snowpack developed the persistent weak layers and became buried I just allowed myself to forget chasing dragons. Maybe that’s something worthy of consideration – the alternative passion. Surfing, Mtn biking, fishing, – whatever helps get you through the longing for a steep line in a remote, incredible place, when the lights are yellow at best and the dragons aren’t really asleep.

    1490 Posts

    Thanks Storn.

    It is entirely clear that we are accepting a certain level of objective danger, entirely out of our own control, when we venture into the high mountain environment, and to some extent it is indeed a numbers game. The more time spent in the mountains, the more likely one is to experience an accident caused by objective dangers entirely outside of one’s own control.
    I would suggest that anyone who denies the objective dangers associated with mountain sports is fooling themselves, and might consider stepping back a little, and re-evaluating their point of view.
    No matter how experienced one is, no matter how educated and conservative their decision making process might be, one can still be killed in the mountains by factors completely outside of their own control. Mountaineering history is full of examples of serious accidents and fatalities which could only have been avoided by staying home and sitting on the couch. As a single example, consider the case of Alex Lowe’s death. He was buried by an avalanche, which originated thousands of feet above his position on a relatively flat and benign glacier. There was no possible way that the avalanche which killed him could have been predicted, and no way a rational, educated, decision making process (with the exception of staying on the couch) would have saved him. The only decision which put him at risk was the decision to be in the mountains at all, and in this decision he accepted a certain level of objective danger beyond his control, as we all do, everytime we enter the mountain environment.

    298 Posts

    I’m form Europe, and also new to splitboarding so sorry if i’m asking obvious questions i’m just trying to figure some stuff out… I’ve done a level 1 avy course, so I know the basics about backcountry safety.

    Are there any thoughts on why relatively so many splitboarders got caught in avalanches this year. I know conditions were tricky, but that would mean tourskiers and snowmobiles would be equally affected. Is this true?

    The number of splitboarders here in Europe is still very low, so they don’t show up in the statistics yet. I’m also an active member of a forum for backcountry skiing and boarding but have only heard one story of somebody getting hurt in a slide while we have hundreds of active members. What happened this year with so many people from gettting caught seems disproportionate, is this just a very sad coincidence?

    Would you say spitboarders have more chanche of getting in avalanches than for instance tourskiers or snowshoe-ers. Why would you think this is?

    Are there a lot of splitboarders who travel alone compared to say skiers, or are there other factors that make it more dangerous?

    270 Posts

    ieism, i dont think snowboarders or splitboarders are showing up disproportionately in avalache stats, ski tourists and sledders def make up the bulk of incidents.
    that said, an instructor in my uni outdoor program was strongly against snowboarding in the backcountry, with a few reasons why: snowboards have more surface area so act more as an anchor if caught in an avalanche, snowboarders tend to make bigger turns at higher speeds meaning they can exert more stress on the snow and also tend to cross subtle variations of aspect more than a skier who wiggles more or less straight down a slope (ie the shady side of a chute might be safer than the sun affected side, but a snowboarder might be more likely to just tear up the whole thing). This was 15+ years ago so things have changed abit but those points do have some validity.

    More to the topic of the OT, im pretty much with barrows, life in general is a numbers game and sh!t can happen in any snow condition, road condition, street corner n shopping mall. I think its abit dramatic to focus on the dangers of ‘extreme’ sports, when only a few subsections of sporting pursuits have risks which exceed that of highway driving. Not to say a number of high end climbers and skiiers dont die in the mountains, but who heard about the mom n her 2 lil girls who died on the highway around Rogers Pass the other month?? Talk about tragic, and it only made the local news. MVA casualties happen in almost every single storm, on the stretch of mtn roads around my town.

    Not to say upgreyedds point doesnt have some validity, the safest pursuit of mtn sports comes under the supervision of guides trained to international standards. When you travel with a guide you see clearly what a sizeable margin of safety they maintain… some (me!) might say ‘boooring!!”. It explains why some guides, mostly highly skilled, get really pent up when they work too much, like their pants are too tight or something. And, sometimes sh!t happens to them also, and not just human error, but the statistics of risk and exposure. Uncertainty is a fact of life, even when conditions are ‘predictable’.
    That said, human error is very much more prevalent in avalanche incidents, generally, than random chance is. Everybody makes mistakes, which is why, very considerately, an independant thread was made for this conversation. Also, not to point fingers at any individuals, but ‘experienced’ can mean all kinds of things. Alot of very talented, experienced skiers do not have an extensive skill set in assessing and managing exposure to avalanche hazard….. and, conversely, some experts in snow stability do not have much skill in skiing. So there will always be conflicting povs bw ‘experienced’ users.
    Be realistic about your skills, push them slowly in low consequence settings before considering a bite into the big game. and, kind of what lewmt said, get a life, theres more to it than just shreddin pow!

    Which (at last? sorry, long winded, no pictures) brings me to my biggest issue with how these discussions are often framed, focussing on risks and hazards and consequences. I mean yeh we gotta be aware of all that and it can be interesting when someone who dont know the math challenges us to justify what we do, but all life dies and i for one am here to live. As long and large as i can.

    …and do my taxes, the other certainty of life, the one thats easy to procrastinate on…. i swear im getting to it, really. honestly. just now. :nononno:

    never summer snowboards
    phantom splitboard bindings
    dynafit touring
    atomic boots

    100 Posts

    RISK………….just as this is all happening a major analysis of risk is published here in nz (mainly concerned with the recent christchurch earthquake and how the risk was managed)

    it lists the SIX MISTAKES we all make in managing our risk

    – we think we can predict extreme events
    – we believe that studying the past will help
    – we dont listen to advice about what we shouldnt do
    – our minds are easily fooled by statistics
    – we are swayed by incentives
    – we overestimate our abilities and underestimate what can go wrong

    another good point…”it is human nature to learn from experience and often it is not until someone is burgled that they bother to install an alarm”

    and this one sums up what seems to be happening with the current avalanche events

    “the things that are most likely to happen to you are the least damaging, but the ones that WILL AFFECT YOU THE MOST are the least frequent”

    a little bit of background.. christchurch city suffered two major earthquakes last year ,both very unlikely events, the quakes caused major damage in certain suburbs that had been recently developed (last 5 yrs) all new subdivisions signed off by council etc…people lost their homes and questioned why they were allowed to build there in the first place….as it turns out the council 10 years previously had developed a map of the area which clearly marked the land as subject to earthquake damage…………..(obviously dollars greed etc played a big part in ignoring the risk of earthquake…) but they developed the land anyway….

    “its often a lack of will to do something about really really big
    risks, because people think it wont happen to me”

    700 Posts

    I understand those who want to write this winter off… but I have a simple love for traveling over snow in the mountains, and that’s still possible even in fucked years like this.

    Skiing big lines may be my overriding objective and ideal, but I’m perfectly happy to use this season to focus on some of the many other aspects of our chosen lifestyle. This season, I have enjoyed shifting my hunt from new, big, exposed lines to seeking out new low angle, high vert areas (sadly almost nonexistent here in SWMT) or summits with low angle/unexposed routes. I equally enjoy days where I never come out of ski mode and spend the whole day exploring a new drainage or basin, sussing logistics out and getting them dialed for when conditions do align. And while many of us may not get the chance to shred our dream lines in pow conditions this season, I know that well-timed descents of rad lines will happen after a couple weeks of solid melt/freeze cycles.

    As far as the “numbers” thing goes… that is the reality of our game, and I’m happy to see so many on here voicing this opinion. There is a large number of newer splitters on this site, and it’s good for them to hear that concept from the get-go.
    But it’s also important to remember the simple things you can do, starting with terrain selection, to stack the “numbers” in your favor. I hesitate to bring Steve up as an example because his death has really screwed me up mentally, but I know he was willing to accept a much higher level of risk than me most days. Some days when I’d be in Jackson during an epic storm cycle, I’d come home from a day of riding low angle trees on the Pass or in Grand Teton NP and come across a Randosteve TR about a descent of a line that, based simply on the amount of new snow and the BTNF advisory, I would have never considered on the given day.

    The point is that not everyone who’s involved in an avalanche incident can necessarily be lumped into the same user group, and that “risk” is not a fixed, tangible concept. It’s totally subjective- some are willing to push the envelope more than others and do so consciously, which is where the numbers game becomes more complex. Add ignorant, uneducated backcountry users as well as “experts” who make mistakes that seem so obviously wrong in hindsight, and you start to get a clearer picture of what the numbers game might truly mean. There’s a strong correlation between the amount of time spent in avy terrain and the higher chance of an incident involving objective hazard, but such a statement tends to downplay the human factors involved.

    1165 Posts

    Things have certainly changed.

    It is known we have a weak layer in the most of the snow pack out west. We talk about it, yet the first Moderate rated weekend we’ve had in Colorado this year, everyone is jumping on the big lines. The killers. So much for the talk.

    Happily, no one was killed, though there were a couple of close calls reported. Overall though, it does seem this was a good weekend to do that sort of thing, and a logical one to get after it. It still makes me wonder a little.

    I think Gaffney on his Rock Center piece had an interesting observation. When asked about the risk today’s athletes take. He stated that almost all of the guys on the scene when he was at the highest level are still around. Several of today’s hero’s are now no longer with us.

    A link to the video is here. Worth watching if you haven’t already.

    It definitely is not an avalanche related article, but I do think it relates to what we are dealing with.

    288 Posts

    I put my thoughts and reactions to this thread over on the TR forum I appreciate everyone’s opinions and thoughts on the matter, and am definitely enjoying this discussion. Thanks for getting it going Storn.

    1514 Posts

    ^^^ Terrific thread, nomad… love your reflections on a challenging snow year and so nice to see so many people engaging their brains on the subject.

    I have to say that I’m a little dissappointed in karkis’ response. You can pretty much count on karkis for a f*cking hilarious pot reference but instead he’s making tax jokes in every thread. :nononno: Dude – if you don’t have any pot jokes, go for a poo joke instead, they are much funnier. :thumpsup:

    Perception of risk is a funny thing. As part of my job I try to get workers to eat healthy food. One of my clients is the California Department of Transportation. They have a really strong safety culture there and they place a big emphasis on avoiding workplace accidents. Makes sense I guess when you think about all the gruesome ways that a highway worker can die. Still I show them these stats, which detail causes of death in the US in 2009:

    Injury at Work 4,108
    Assault (Homicide) 16,591
    Motor Vehicle Accidents 36,284
    Diabetes Mellitus 68,504
    Cerebrovascular Diseases 128,603
    Cardiovascular Diseases 779,367

    By the numbers, fully a third of their people will die a long drawn out death from a preventable illness related to inadequate diet and exercise. So they are kind of afraid of the wrong thing.

    Say what you like, at least our risk of cardiovascular disease is well contained.

    In answer to UPGRAYEDD_2505’s question, yes I have been buried. It is quite humbling actually to suddenly taste the enormous, irreversible consequence of the risk we are talking about and it does lead one to considerable meditation on the subject.

    Perversely (or maybe not) I came to karkis’ conclusion…

    @karkis wrote:

    …all life dies and i for one am here to live. As long and large as i can.

    For me I felt urgency to take on extra risk in areas of life that had been pretty safely dialed for me. I haven’t sat out this season so much from avalanche risk, but because I quit a kush, hi-income job to test myself as an entrepreneur. Facing mortality for a minute or two added a lot of urgency to going after some of life’s unfinished business. Because you just get one go-round on this earth.

    As part of my new life I have a new girlfriend at home and kids who count on me to be there for them. So I guess in that context it is tough to look at her and say yeah I’m gonna go play this particular numbers game today. (I do believe, by the way that dicking around in the snowy mountains is way more risky than driving.)

    To speak to lew’s point, do I get so much additional thrill from this numbers game, with it’s out-sized risk, that it is a better game to play than say resort riding, or surfing, or flying a kite?

    I dunno… I don’t see me quitting it. I have benefitted in so many and myriad ways from my time in the mountains. It is a part of me that I will never let go of. (And BTW, my gf wouldn’t want me to let go of it either.) But I don’t think that there are a lot of 100-day seasons in my future. That is more of one particular type of risk than I am willing to take on and it carries with it the creeping risk of leaving so much other business unfinished…

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

    570 Posts

    The season for me hasn’t been without mtns or snow while pursuing my alternative passion. Its just been a great year to pursue it more vigorously due to the persistent weak layers that offer potentially deadly consequences in the mountains near home.

    Days like this have been epic for me

    I made over 19,000′ of verticle this day(uphill just like if I was counting the skintrak). I don’t keep track because I’m badass and want to tell the world how big I go. There’s plenty of more skilled kiters that could put that number down easily with their accomplishments. I’m just curious how 1 day stacks up against others and there’s other variables beside verticle that come into play based on terrain & snow conditions available. It is reflective of what is entirely possible with marginal skills and a great day of wind & snow. The play options – sometimes are boundless.

    Its not better – its just different. Those absolutely perfect days are rare in either pursuit, or with a surf board, a kayak, a fishing pole or whatever. I haven’t diminished my passion for splitting….its just on sabatical…until the dragons can be trusted. btw. I’ve split into numerous locations this year and split my way back to the rig when the wind has dumped mid-session. Hopefully that makes my comments slightly legit.

    I think the discussion here & with Nomads thread are thought provoking and insightful. However – if Nomad ever shows up at the ibex wearing lycra, he’s sleeping on the porch.

    A little better presentation of what’s possible:


    Thanks to Joe Irons for that^ His photog skills are :bow:

    You may ask why I keep hyping the kite thing on here? I keep hoping for someone to join me in exploring possibilities via kite + skintrack. The possibilities out there are amazing but unfortunately most of my kite brethren aren’t big on skinning to the goods

    270 Posts

    Aw jeez Storn i wasnt tryin ta be funney, taxes is serious shit!! i bin doin MATH son!!! thats f@#ked up!!
    an sorry if ya miss my pot jokes?? i dont remember makin pot jokes?? users loose drugs buddy!!!
    speakin of, and its not funney, i lost my stash :banghead: maybe thats why i got no jokes.
    but really i think it must be you with issues, sorry to say, but just cuz you quit the kush dont mean its my problem to provide you with stimulation.
    apart from that keep it up, interesting discussion.

    never summer snowboards
    phantom splitboard bindings
    dynafit touring
    atomic boots

    700 Posts

    Lewmt, do you know a woman named Suzie Druckman? I work with her at the co-op in Bozeman and know she’s way into kiting.

    570 Posts

    Nick – If she’s the same Suzi that has a son named Josh that also kites – I’ve kited with her once down in the Big Hole last year….which is the destination for this weekend if anyone wants to join in…wandering in the hippy van.

    Back to the topic – My thinking is that with the persistent weak layers in the snowpack this year the only really substantive thing that will change the snowpack to a fairly secure setup is for it to go isothermic for a day & re-freeze? Then its possible to focus on the more normal spring corn potential?

    758 Posts

    Its helping out here in CO, but….

    From CAIC:

    “We are still seeing reasonably cold over-night lows so the upper snowpack layers are seeing a good freeze. Daytime temperatures around the 11,000 foot level are getting quite warm quickly and this is a bit disturbing, especially where there are still persistent weak layers lurking in the base layers of the snowpack.”

    It doesn’t sound like it will completely cure our issues.

    709 Posts

    Karkis…. you tasty bud smoking, high mountain shredding fellow….I’m calling your bluff. Canadians don’t do taxes. 🙄

    Good discussions in this thread.

    Life is short…pick your path that is meant for you. It may be safer or contain more risk.

    700 Posts

    @lewmt wrote:

    Nick – If she’s the same Suzi that has a son named Josh…
    Back to the topic – My thinking is that with the persistent weak layers in the snowpack this year the only really substantive thing that will change the snowpack to a fairly secure setup is for it to go isothermic for a day & re-freeze? Then its possible to focus on the more normal spring corn potential?

    It is the same Suzie! Awesome person.
    I think especially at upper elevation (i.e. the lines we all want to ride in the spring), going isothermal is hard to achieve completely. More likely for this season: on the first truly hot day in the mountains, when the first water hits the buried facet layers and depth hoar that still exists on some high-elevation slopes, we’ll see some BIG releases. I suspect the stuff that does run on facets will step down to the ground. Sort of like June 2010.
    What I’m hoping for (and what will happen at some point) is a few days of melt+deep freeze that consolidate the upper 1/2 of the snowpack. Early morning/night travel over the frozen surface will have little to no effect on the deeper layers lurking, and timing your descent perfectly will be of the essence.
    This is all southwest MT specific, but probably applies to other continental snowpack areas this season.

    1514 Posts

    You’ll find lots of details here:

    Some of the rangers make pretty harsh assessments of the route/decision making. They are implying that it is not so much of a numbers game as I had originally supposed. I guess there is comfort in knowing that the incident could have been reasonably avoided with more conservative target and route selection. Of course we have no idea what stability clues they were observing as they climbed. How many of us have placed ourselves in the gut of an avalanche path on a moderate day, either climbing or riding? True though, ridgelines make for easier & safer climbing and staying home is safer than going out.

    We are all taking on some level of unneccessary risk and those that take bigger risks more often face worse odds for long-term survival. :twocents:

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

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