Item: An avalanche characterization checklist for backcountry travel decisions
Title: An avalanche characterization checklist for backcountry travel decisions
Proceedings: Proceedings of the 2004 International Snow Science Workshop, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Authors: Roger Atkins, Canadian Mountain Holidays
Abstract: This paper presents a checklist to assess the character of likely avalanche activity for the purpose of backcountry travel decisions. The purpose of the checklist is to help bridge the gap between stability assessment and risk management decisions about travel on specific terrain features. The checklist expresses the character, and to some extent the spatial variability, of snowpack instability rather than the likelihood of avalanche occurrence. There is inherently less uncertainty about the type of avalanches likely to occur than about the probability of triggering avalanches on specific terrain features. However, assessing the character of possible avalanches is even more relevant than assessing the ease of triggering avalanches when managing the risk of travel in backcountry terrain. The checklist is proposed as a method for professional guides and experienced recreationists to help communicate their subjective thought processes and to provide structure for assessing the character of potential avalanche activity. Avalanche activity is separated into different regimes, and potential for avalanches in each regime is then assessed. Examples of “avalanche regimes” include “Wind Slabs Near Ridge tops”, “Glide Avalanches”, etc. The motivation for this checklist comes from my observations during decades of work as a helicopter ski guide in western North America. This is a practitioner’s viewpoint inspired by the increasing wisdom of backcountry travelers and improved means of communication. The intent of the checklist is to better express our snowpack instability concerns in a systematic way that is meaningful for backcountry risk management.
Keywords: avalanche, characterization, checklist
Digital Abstract Not Available