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 Post subject: Re: The Numbers Game
PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:40 am 
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Sorry if we're going off topic too much....

I agree the first example (/mtavalanche.com) is much better than the second (jhavalanche.org) It's also more interesting to read for most people because the facts aren't so dry but made into a little story.

I'm afraid our forecast is much more like the second one for most of the alps. I'll show you some examples:

1. Switzerland: This is a national forecast with regional bulletins. I like the fact that you can go to one website and get all the information you need. It's also a website I can check on my phone very easily. But it's very short, not a lot of detailed information is avaiable, not somewhere else either for Switzerland.
http://www.slf.ch/lawineninfo/lawinenbulletin/regionale_lawinenbulletins/index_EN

2. Austria: Is divided into a few regions, and all have a different website you have to check. I hate this, because when it snows we're not even sure where we're going to end up that day so you have to remember or bookmark all these different bulletins. I like the fact that the way they set them up is very similar across the country, and also very similar to the swiss one:
http://lawine.tirol.gv.at/english/

3. France: This is about as good as it get to me, the only problem is that I sometimes struggle with my limited French skills and it's not translated. But I love how they visualized everything (recently), it's detailed, and all regions for the country on one website again.
http://france.meteofrance.com/france/MONTAGNE?MONTAGNE_PORTLET.path=montagnebulletinneige%2FDEPT09

4. Italy: Not much experience, regions on different websites so good luck finding them. I need a special app to find these so I doubt a lot of tourists bother. Some in english, some not. More or less the same as Austria, but when it's in Italian i'm lost.
http://www.arpa.veneto.it/upload_arabba/bollettini_meteo/dolomitineve/dolomitineve.pdf

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 Post subject: Re: The Numbers Game
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:12 am 
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barrows wrote:
IMO avalanche forecasts can only be relied upon for the most generalized view of the actual avalanche conditions in any one location, and should not be the only, or even a primary, source of information for which to base route selection decisions on.

Totally agree with this. Specific, representative tests and observations are a huge part of any tour I'm on, along with an ongoing data collection from the numerous SNOTEL sites & weather stations around our region.
The problem I see is that
a) a good majority of backcountry users don't go any further than checking the daily advisory, and...
b) so much more can be done to enhance certain daily advisories.

When I look at a daily advisory like the BTNF's, I see so many things they could be doing to improve the quality and specificity of their forecasts and it's somewhat frustrating. Especially in the context of Steve's accident. He "navigated by intuition" and made public his distaste for snowpits and more analytic methods of assessment. I would imagine the BTNF's daily advisory factored largely in his decisionmaking. In that sense, things like a danger rose, photos of recent activity, videos showing recent pits and tests done by the BTNF's professionals, and more detailed discussions of specific problems. It doesn't have to be a novel.
Perhaps I should be putting this in a letter to the BTNF rather than discussing it on this forum. Just so nobody misunderstands my intentions: I'm not trying to second-guess anybody, nor make any judgements. It was just something that came up as some friends and I (including some who work for my local GNFAC) discussed Steve's accident. I was curious to see how users on this site, especially Teton locals, felt about the BTNF and daily advisories in general.

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 Post subject: Re: The Numbers Game
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:49 am 
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Yeah Nick, I just wanted to emphasize that relying solely on the forecast is a mistake. The forecasts themselves could always be better-I suspect the reason they are not is related to funding, and how much help they get from locals who contribute their own observations to the forecasting center. I know here in Colorado, many of the field observations and photos posted on the CAIC site are contributed by enthusiasts like you and I.
In the case of Steve R's accident, it is impossible to know what the decision making process was, and any second guessing we do now is so speculative, to be rather arrogant on our parts. The one thing I feel it is somewhat safe to assume, is that Steve and Chris must have had some confidence (mistaken) in the stability of the slope, considering their route up, and the fact that they both were exposed to the danger at the same time. The photos, are quite sobering, as the start zone appears to be a fairly obvious potential release point: what looks like a convex, and quite possibly wind loaded roll. This accident looks to me like one of those "high consequence (size of the path) low probability (avy rating on the day)" type of situations, where it is not uncommon for backcountry riders to make a risky move-probably most of us here, have made a similar choice once or twice on our careers.

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 Post subject: Re: The Numbers Game
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:24 pm 
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I agree with everything you've said and appreciate your contribution to this thread. I also see that funding and lack of firsthand obs can be a big problem.
barrows wrote:
In the case of Steve R's accident, it is impossible to know what the decision making process was, and any second guessing we do now is so speculative, to be rather arrogant on our parts.

I also agree and wasn't trying to second guess. I only provided Steve's known methods of analysis as an example, because I know there are TONS of others just like him. I'm using his methods as a means of illustrating the type of person that could be reached through a more detailed daily advisory. On that note....
barrows wrote:
This accident looks to me like one of those "high consequence (size of the path) low probability (avy rating on the day)" type of situations, where it is not uncommon for backcountry riders to make a risky move-probably most of us here, have made a similar choice once or twice on our careers.

I agree that I've made such moves, but I would actually argue the probability was higher than the danger rating suggested if you look at the wind and snowfall data from the week prior to the incident. It indicates the SE facing slope that avalanched had received over two feet of new snow and consistent winds averaging 20mph out of the west (mostly out of the NW on the day prior to the slide).
Our differing opinions on the probability of the event don't matter. To me, the situation illustrates how helpful a graphical "danger rose" like I've seen in the UT and CO forecasts can be in situations like this, even if they only get you thinking about potential specific problems you might encounter. I think the average user (again, talking about the type who doesn't delve deeper than the daily advisory) responds much better to summary graphics rather than having to "put it all together" for his or herself.

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 Post subject: Re: The Numbers Game
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:54 pm 
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Nick: yup, I mostly agree. The one thing I cannot be at all sure off, is how unstable that slope might have appeared to be at the time.

"I agree that I've made such moves, but I would actually argue the probability was higher than the danger rating suggested if you look at the wind and snowfall data from the week prior to the incident. It indicates the SE facing slope that avalanched had received over two feet of new snow and consistent winds averaging 20mph out of the west (mostly out of the NW on the day prior to the slide)."

You may be right on here (and considering that the slope did release, with hindsight probably are). But this also speaks to my point regarding local observations, in my experience, wind loading can be quite hard to understand on a macro scale (as might be suggested by a danger rose) and then interpolate to a smaller. locallised area. In other words, certainly the new snowfall, and prevailing winds in the prior hours, would indicate significant windloading on SE aspects in general-but this alone does necessarily mean instability (even with a slab, bonding could be good-are you aware of a weak layer at the surface as well? Melt-freeze, or surface hoar, etc?). Additionally, wind loading is so affected by surrounding topography (the shape of various rock outcroppings, etc) that it can vary considerably on the micro scale. Please do not misunderstand me, as I am not trying to disagree with you, I am just trying to suggest possible reasons why Steve and Chris might have considered their route relatively safe-and get back to my original point, if we were there, what would we have found the snow to be like, at that spot, on that day. Without actually being right there, we really cannot know how unstable that slope appeared.

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 Post subject: Re: The Numbers Game
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:20 pm 
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barrows wrote:
Please do not misunderstand me, as I am not trying to disagree with you, I am just trying to suggest possible reasons why Steve and Chris might have considered their route relatively safe-and get back to my original point, if we were there, what would we have found the snow to be like, at that spot, on that day. Without actually being right there, we really cannot know how unstable that slope appeared.

Ironically, this has been the main factor leading me to think so much about the incident. You're right. We will never know. Furthermore, every time I go out I see information that conflicts with what "should" be the case based on what I gathered from weather stations/SNOTELs/avy sites. In that sense, it certainly is a "numbers game".

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 Post subject: Re: The Numbers Game
PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 9:04 am 
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Bump to add that the official incident report just came out. http://avalanche.org/pdfs/accidents/Ran ... ar2012.pdf

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 Post subject: Re: The Numbers Game
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:41 am 
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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.


Uffda - yesterdays carnage at Bridger Bowl sure puts an exclamation mark on that statement!

Great year to have kiting as an option! - last weekend's kiting in the Bighorns was epic....time to splash into water already...crazy-assed year

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 Post subject: Re: The Numbers Game
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:24 pm 
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Yeah, pretty crazy photos etc... from that event. It's almost laughable how bad things have been around here. Time for another road trip to the 'tons. Probably the first of many this spring...

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 Post subject: Re: The Numbers Game
PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2012 12:44 am 
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regarding avalanche forecasts, its of course crucial to have a summary of significant layers in the pack, related to the seasons weather, and clearly recent avalanche activity is also crucial information. in my region the caa does a good job but i do find the recent avalanche information in the synopsis to be a bit short on details and long on hype, that is they dont date the info, they'll repeat every day for a week (or more!?!) about (currently) the size 3 triggered remotely from 100 metres away by an experienced party (wtf does experience have to do with remote triggering?), and if ya havent been reading all week ya dont know that its old news. i have been reading all week and i still dont know how that slide went from storm snow to size 3, maybe it was a big feature, or stepped down, or the assesment was exaggerated, who knows? id like to know, i think its relevant... :scratch:

personally i think its bullshit that the infoex is password protected, that information should be available to recreationalists.

it seems like this thread is mostly in response to and about the GTNP accident, i've thought about that for a while, gambling numbers and human error, and i hate ta be..... well sh!t obviously im willing to be 'that guy' in every other post...
with all respect due to a highly skilled and accomplished shredder who is no longer with us to offer his perspective....
i dont mean this as arrogant or judgemental or whatever, but the best that can be made of the tragedy is we could learn from it, specific useful lessons, rather than just sayin his numbers failed him that day...

Romeo spent just a bit of time up in my hood, a friend of mine skiied with him a day and came back with a strong impression of his blase attitude towards the avalanche hazard, maybe he felt our temperate snowpack didnt deserve as much respect as his continental home pack or maybe as my buddy said, 'i guess maybe thats the attitude it takes to send like he does, where he's from...'

and let me admit here that my own attitude towards snow safety is seen as blase to more than a few people.... and yep i've made mistakes, more than a few that i know of and plenty im ignorant of too, im sure.

last year in the spring Romeo blogged about a couple of avalanche incidents, close calls, one with Onufer even, i expect this final, fatal, incident wasnt much unlike the close calls he describes. If you read them closely you can see that he externalises some aspects of his exposure ('we were forced to...') and he emphasizes his internal factors, the recognition of hazard, and management decisions of sticking to this feature or that. I dont think its arrogant to assume that on their final tour the two did not fail to recognise obvious or subtle signs of instability, but rather they thought their terrain management would be enough for the unstable conditions, as it had been in the past.

also, Barrows, significant recent windloading does indicate instability, always.
instability doesnt often appear when you look at a snow slope, it appears when you look at the weather, snow report, datalogger, avalanche forecast, and its confirmed by snow tests, ski cuts, cornice bombs, all starting from managed / low consequence exposure.
likewise stability doesnt often appear on slopes, but is determined as signs of instability diminish.

ghaniman wrote:
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

thats gold rite there, the last one especially.

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