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How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
Never 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Once a season 9%  9%  [ 2 ]
Once a month 9%  9%  [ 2 ]
Once a week 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Every storm cycle 4%  4%  [ 1 ]
Every tour 35%  35%  [ 8 ]
Bonus Q: do you perform beacon checks when you tour? 43%  43%  [ 10 ]
Total votes : 23
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 Post subject: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:49 am 
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Joined: Thu Nov 20, 2008 9:10 pm
Posts: 1433
Location: UT
Just curious since I've yet to see someone else (in person) dig a pit here in the Wasatch, I've only stumbled across one this season in the BC and I see very few pics, or references to snow assessment in TR's. (with the exception of Jive's homepage). Lastly I've only seen one other party initiate a beacon check and that was the Pwhores.

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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:02 pm 
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Joined: Thu May 28, 2009 2:36 pm
Posts: 178
Location: Bellingham
I dig a pit when going to a new zone for sure, not always when I'm riding around the home mountain sidecountry. Always read reports and pay attention to what's happening and do quick tests on the way out though, which is a lot more than i see from a lot of people around baker. Seems like I'm always the guy initiating beacon checks...

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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:11 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:18 pm
Posts: 939
Location: reiter hills
I said every tour... but here is my argument;

I firmly beleive that the observations you make before you dig have more value. I am assessing from the moment I check the weather/avi report in the morning, and a multitude of other data nearly every step of the way. To me, this trumps the minimal CT test criteria.

But if you want to know how often the shovel comes out;
I myself have dug 4 full depth profiles this year. found layers, and measured temp gradients. pulled out the card and loup. Got a little info on spacial variability by having a partner dig nearby, but changing aspect slightly. did every test possible. ct, ect, spt, rb, and an ect/spt hybrid using a shovel on the lower 1/3 of the t.. :scratch:

I usually only dig if I think there is something to look for, or I am not familiar with the local snow pack.. Some days it has been out several times, some days never. But assessments are always made :doobie:

Not to say I always make the wisest decison for the decent.

Edit.. Colin is a quicker typer. I always do beacon checks with people I haven't been out with. Sometimes guilty of trusting that the signals are good if it's someone I frequently go out with, and we verbally confirm that the beacons are on and powered up.


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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:30 pm 
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Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2005 7:43 pm
Posts: 879
I rarely dig a full pit and do CT's when I'm out. Reasons I would are if we had a really big dump, I'm visiting a new place and am going to be riding in that area a while or like this year as a learning process since they can be very informative. When I'm out I do a lot of hasty hand pits on multiple aspects (there fast and very informative in terms of how the new snow is bonding to old), probe with my pole for obvious layers, look for signs of activity/wind loading/shooting cracks, whumps etc., stomp on some cornices, ski cut if possible.

I have a hard time believing most people truly understand how to read the results of a CT, IF they do it right and probably the better test would be a CT and ECT. The last two years have been good years to go out and dig pits since you get a good idea of what red flag results of a CT look like. Plus digging a pit is time consuming and results from a N Facing aspect are going to be different than Efacing or Wfacing aspects and what about pockets of wind loading or changes in temperature, etc. Usually your riding more than one aspect, different elevations, etc on a tour.

Checking beacons is a good practice I need to get in the habit of when I'm out with others. I also like to not only look at if your getting signal but what is your beacon range. This is crucial when considering your search pattern. Different beacons can have different ranges in my experience.

Thanks for the post Snurfer, this stuffs fun to discuss.

Edit: Looks like were all on lunch break and posting at the same time. Sorry if I repeated anything.


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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 6:30 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 20, 2008 9:10 pm
Posts: 1433
Location: UT
These are all great replies and reflect a lot of what I do as well. I agree with Utah, this is good stuff to talk about and learn the approach of others.

I guess I should have qualified the "minimally CT" statement... What I meant was assuming someone has learned how to interpret a CT and other tests, do they ever perform any of them? My broader curiosity arises from what I "haven't" seen in the Wasatch.
Perhaps I'm overly conservative, but 20-30 minutes learning the propensity of various aspects/areas and the current snow pack seems like a small price to pay on an all day tour. Particularly when several of those caught this season were "experienced", didn't do any tests, and ignored clear red flags and poor group dynamics.

Keep the replies coming, good stuff :thumpsup:

.

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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:43 pm 
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 6:09 pm
Posts: 388
Location: Chamonix, France
I dig a pit when:

a. I don't know enough about the snowpack history for the season in that aspect/area and I'm curious

b. when I feel that I need more confidence, i.e. 3x3 filter method, but that's only happened once, I generally reach for other reduction factors first and stick to low commitment outings, where I have more flexibility

c. when I have time to kill waiting for a group member


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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 8:13 am 
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Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2004 4:09 pm
Posts: 137
I started digging pits in October for historical perspective.
Haven't really dug one since the middle of December. Started looking at crowns and doing profiles instead. Convienent of Mother Nature to dig for me.
If it's taking 20-30 minutes to dig and do compression testing, practice is needed digging a pit.
Should take 5-10 minutes. Dig boy, dig!


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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 10:50 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:10 pm
Posts: 266
Location: SLC Bunk
I almost only pull the shovel out when I'm on my own. Not sure why, maybe because I'm shy and fear having to defend or explain my interpretation of results. VERY lame, I know :oops: You should see me as I turn something in for peer review at work, I'm a wreck even though I'm good at what I do.

I prefer teh ECT as it can indicate the likelihood of propagation. Also, I'm little sloppy with CT's and worry too much about the "plumbness" of the column walls (another quirk of mine) and other silly shit. When layers don't fail I will sometimes chop my EC and do a tilt or two for shits and giggles. I don't own a card or thermometers (I'm not saying they're unnecessary).

I will do hand pits or CT's if I'm looking for variability in aspect or elevation.

If I do pull the shovel out when I have company I will also do a Reuschblock (sp?) and make my partner provide the weight while I observe.

I still have a LOT to learn and am making no suggestions here. Just sharing. I took a Snow Dynamics class in college and have done a fair bit of reading but have been putting Level 1 off for too long :nononno: Not sure why :scratch:

Oh, and I usually check for working beacons. I'm guilty of forgetting to at times.


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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 7:20 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 6:31 pm
Posts: 21
Location: Utah
I've been averaging just a couple pits per tour, and have been thinking I need to up that quite a bit..?

Not that I pull out my shovel every time but the quick hand pits seem to be a good way to go.

I'm just getting my feet wet in the back country but it sounds like over all my situational awareness skill are my best friend. I've been having a hard time translating my pit test to slopes I'm looking at to ride. Although I think the more I'm doing this, things are starting to come together.

Thanks for the great topic, its nice to get a feel of what everyone else is doing!

PS I am quite EXCITED for my Level 1 Course I'm taking next weekend!! Here hoping for some snow next week :bananas: (Snow Dance)


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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 7:49 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 20, 2008 9:10 pm
Posts: 1433
Location: UT
Hey Stagger Lee, sounds a lot like what I do... I always hate to be a buzz kill, so unless I'm solo the shovel mostly stays in the pack. Shit poor excuse for not doing it, but I def suffer from the same sort of things....

Kyuule who you taking the course with? I took the December UMA course.... It was definitely worth the $$ and to be able to tour both days, while asking questions and filling in the blanks from what I've read was very valuable....

Again, glad to see folks chime in.....

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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 9:59 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:45 am
Posts: 815
Location: Bozeman, MT
I dig pits and record data on every tour for two reasons.

1. I want to know whether I feel the slope is safe
2. I want to share the info with the local avalanche center

My roomate (i.e. tour partner) and I do beacon checks on every tour because it take 15 seconds and we don't want to die from stupidity.

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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 5:40 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 6:31 pm
Posts: 21
Location: Utah
Snurfer wrote:
Kyuule who you taking the course with? I took the December UMA course.... It was definitely worth the $$ and to be able to tour both days, while asking questions and filling in the blanks from what I've read was very valuable....


It is a UAC course that they are doing up in Cache Valley at USU. It was a bit cheaper and my buddy goes to school up there. I'm looking forward to it! I have a lot of slack country snowboarding experience and with minimal backcountry experience. Have been trying to learn what I can from Bruce Trempers book but there are lots of dots that have yet to be connected for me. I'm excited to get some in person education from someone who know's their stuff!

Now if we could just get some new snow!!

On the topic of beacons I have been running through a quick check with everyone in the party as were leaving the car. We also have had a couple chances to get a few rounds of "hide and seek" in. I would like to get a lot more practice in, hopefully this weekend. Heading out to try our luck the first overnighter on the split!

Overall I would like to get a lot more comfortable with my rescue skills. Most of the gear is very simple and easy to use, but I don't have enough hands on experience to do the actions as second nature(the point I would like to get to). Overall I am confident in my riding skills to keep me safe MOST of the time. Its that small percentage left over that I would like to cover my ass from. There is such a fine line between life and death(a few minutes) in bad situations, I want to cover my basis. Kinda like a long term investment, the more I know, the better chances of me riding longer.


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 Post subject: Re: How often do you do snow assessment? (minimally a CT)
PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2010 11:31 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 24, 2009 3:45 pm
Posts: 14
I believe a lot of people dig their pits on slopes that are lower angles (non-avalanche prone slopes), by so, they're literally digging a pit down. After a few of these time and energy consuming pits they stop digging pits and just go ride on future tours. A pit on a steeper avalanche slope only takes a couple minutes to chop and pull out. Also, the data on the 37-degree slope is going to be completely different than the data on the 28-degree slope 200 meters over.

I prefer to test the actual slope that is being considered! I carry a light 30-meter rope that I anchor and tie off with, drop over, and dig a pit.

I dig pits when the conditions are between likely and unlikely to slide. Also, I typically don't tour the popular tours and my typical slopes only see a few tracks a season, so they're not getting rider or skier compacted. I've found these to be the isolated slopes that slide during isolated avalanche conditions.

I typically only do three pit tests:

1. Shear Test: I need to remove a column to be able to cut the backside for my other two column tests, so I might as well tale a few extra seconds and get some data.

2. CT: I cut a CT at the same time as my ECT and it only takes about 45 sec extra to do a CT. Also, I've doing the CT for 20-years, so I like to compare it to my 20-years of collected CT info in my head.

3. ECT: Simply, recent research show the ECT the be the most accurate test.

In about 8-10 minutes, I'm either climbing back up the rope to return another day or pulling the rope and riding the slope!


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