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    That’s really, really cool. Ugh gadget envy :drool:

    This is clearly a useful tool for avy pros in generating BC Avy forecasts (or anyone who tracks how snow-structural changes throughout the season, but it’s hard for me to imagine a schmo/recreatonalist doing this. . . but I know it happens). And that crowd-sourcing potential is HUGE; especially in the few, high-traffic, BC locales with 3G reception e.g. Chamonix.

    At the same time, the probe replaces nothing in neither the pro’s nor the recreationalist’s toolbox vis-a-vis more accurate or more actionable info. It’s simply more info, which isn’t always a good thing. Further the individual must know how to use this fountain of info and how that will affect a go/no-go decision (which is what I am after when I’m digging pits).

    I would be pleasantly surprised if the SP1 could find a layer of buried surface hoar.

    The Avatech probe only tells you one thing: hardness at a given depth.
    And that is but one part of stratigraphy; you still should now if that buried soft layer is pow or depth hoar—let alone temp gradients.
    And stratigraphy is but one part of snowpack; you still really need to know trigger sensitivity and propensity to propagate.
    And snowpack is but one leg of the Avy triangle.

    Don’t get me wrong, the probe saves time —and— for the individual, it should be used only to re-confirm what you already suspect; to help “smooth out” spatial variation.
    Whereas for the community. . . 😯 Whoa. Whole new ballgame son.

    This is like when GPS first came on the scene. If you didn’t have a map and the wherewithal to use what the GPS told you, all it was good for was telling you EXACTLY where you’re gonna die.

    For my money, 1,500 clams would get a really nice airbag pack.

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    I just read the FAQ and it clearly states the SP1 is only for pros making most of ^that moot.
    Still rad!

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    Super cool geek toy. Agree with most those points but I bet it can totally pick out a thin weak layer (like surface hoar) but it probably can’t say what constitutes said weak layer…but if through the crowd sourcing magic it could correlate the layers to already identified layers in the area…maybe it sorta could. I think that’s the real next level magic.

    I’m psyched to check em out but don’t see much applicability to most folks. It’s not like stratigraphy mistakes are the leading cause of avy accidents.

    That company is well connected and appears to be well funded. I’m curious to see what they drop next. Their ISSW booth is going to be slammed.


    @dishwasher-dave wrote:

    I bet it can totally pick out a thin weak layer (like surface hoar) but it probably can’t say what constitutes said weak layer

    Yea. . . as long as your layer looks like this . . .
    . . . a centimeter of vertically aligned crystals. For sure!

    I was thinking more like after the wind event which brought in the new snow had already blown over the hoar crystals, so they lie flat when they’re buried. And you see this. . .

    It *looks* like two layers but the third, 2 mm thick layer, reveals itself only after isolated columns reveal a Q1 shear. That’s where the pleasant surprise would come.

    I hope a forum member gets to play with one of these are does a write up.

    I wonder if the display can convert the readout into F/4F/1F/P/K notation; Or does 0–200 kPa just happen to correspond to the other notation. I don’t know how to interpret kPa vis-à-vis snow hardness.

    The shit show at their ISSW booth is gonna make a pow weekend at a front range resort look like a ghost town!

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    It was kind of humbling using that device, because I thought I was pretty good at picking up layers in the snow pack and the SP1 picked up way more layers than I did! And what would have taken me a week to do, I could sample the same amount of terrain in a day.
    – Chris Devito
    Snow Safety Aspen Highlands

    Quote from AvaTech website.

    Don’t know that dude but I’m guessing he’s done a bunch of pits.

    Not at all trying to start a pissing contest about this device but my concerns are sorta the opposite. Namely that it has the potential to be overly sensitive and pick out weak layers that are too thin too really be a problem and thereby create confusion instead of clarity. I guess pros should be able to filter out the noise but that can be tough. This is not a big concern as philosophically I’m a fan of more info but I could imagine a scenario where the sensor is picking out crazy small weak layers. The quotes I’ve read from folks I respect are reassuring though. Even if it only delivers on the low end of its promise, it’s still a cool tool. I’ll try to battle the fanboys and check it out up in Banff.


    Personally, I would love to see a recreationalist version become available, simply for the amount of data that could be collected (maybe even a volunteer group with support/training from local avalanche centers). It definitely shouldn’t replace digging, but it could make the days where avalanche reports are a little ambiguous and pits come back questionable a little more manageable. I’m a big believer in more data makes for better decisions.

    Will this be for everyone?….most likely not, but in a way, yes. It would be cool to have access to the individual data points for certain areas that others have taken before going out. I see the potential mostly in continental snow packs where it’s hard to tell just how prevalent weak layers are and more data points would give you a much better picture of what’s actually going on. Pockets of weakness vs huge slabs…it seems like that’s the game we’re always playing here in Colorado at least and more data would make that game a lot more manageable.

    Mike Hardaker

    Price may keep a few people out of the market for now… “What a life worth”

    Article on the Avatech SP1

    I’m all for this sort of tech along with the
    Ski Tracks app hopefully us backcountry users can help document the snowpack and educate all the “new and old” users..


    Wow. The sampling speed and potential for crowd-aggregating data with this tool is revolutionary.



    At ISSW I was able to get a lengthy overview of the AvaTech offerings during an AIARE refresher day. I also talked to a couple folks who actually used SP1’s last season and talked with a couple of AvaTech employees.

    Overall, it seems like a smart company working on interesting technologies.

    The SP1 is impressive. The sensor is ridiculously sensitive. The screen can then display that data in different degrees of complexity. This is very smart as the most complex view is probably more cluttered than most folks want most of the time. If you don’t need to consider all that data in the field, you can choose to look at a simplified view (but that data remains for potential future consideration).

    Currently the probe is only 150 cms which is short for full measurements of deep snowpacks but roughly the depth where we are generally concerned about human triggering (insert usual caveats here). For some reason the folks from the Pacific Northwest kept mentioning that they would like a longer probe…must snow up there or something.

    This upcoming season when the probe is out and being used by many more people will be a valuable real world test of how well it lives up to its potential. Guessing, I’d bet it works well but has some shortcomings that are tough to anticipate.

    Regarding a recreational product, the AvaTech folks seemed cautious and clearly want to avoid selling a product that is misused by folks. That said, they are a company and I’m pretty sure they will have something for recreationalists in the near future.

    SP1 aside, the AvaNet snow pit editor is so nice it almost made me cry. Just an elegant simple intuitive interface for entering pit data. This is much less sexy than a $2000 probe but for snow nerds like myself it was extremely impressive. If you are a snow professional you can sign up for a free account good until 1/1/15. I highly recommend doing this.

    The social aspect is also intriguing as all the SP1 profiles and human created snowpits can be seen on a map and you can easily click on different ones to learn what other folks are seeing. There will be opt out options for operations that don’t wish to share their data. All this data is exportable in a variety of formats. It would be amazing if this data could show up on public avalanche center maps. There are some legitimate concerns with a private company controlling valuable safety data. The AvaTech folks said all the right things about making data accessible for researchers but there is still some trepidation out there about this. I expect that these issues can be resolved but it is an issue to monitor going forward.

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