Just Finished Avy 1...

Info, conditions and gear related to skiing or riding Colorado Peaks, including the 14ers! Ski/Ride Trip Reports
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Just Finished Avy 1...

Postby SkiBum1287 » Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:16 pm

I just took my Avy 1 class with CMS in Estes, and it was a great introduction to backcountry skiing and avalanche safety/decision making. The instructors were great guides, teachers, everything--highly recommended.

Before my class, I spent a lot of time on here, CAIC, and Avalanche.org reading up on as much as I could, and for the most part I had a decent understanding of the introductory information and terminology. The class really helped with understanding the evolution of the snow crystals/grain structure and snowpack. Then we spent some time digging pits and doing compression tests. It was the part of the puzzle that I hadn't quite grasped from reading, and I was eager to learn about it.

They did a great job explaining the science of it all, but when we got back from the field, they told us that pits really aren't too informative, and that they are not a good tool because of the spatial variability of the snowpack. That seemed to me like taking away a huge chunk of relevant information from the picture. But then again, I have extremely limited experience.

I was hoping to get input from some of the more experienced members of the forum about whether or not you dig pits, and how much weight it has in your decision.


Re: Just Finished Avy 1...

Postby Bean » Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:27 pm

Avy 1 is a great course, and I suggest taking it along with the FOBP class.

Here's the thing with pits - they can be very helpful, but you need to know what you're looking for out of it, not just thinking "hey let's dig a pit before we go!" You need to watch the snowpack all winter long, and know what you're dealing with.
"There are no hard 14ers, but some are easier than others." - Scott P

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Re: Just Finished Avy 1...

Postby anthonylebaron » Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:49 pm

Like Bean said, you have to know what you're looking for. For example, we got a layer of surface hoar here a few weeks ago, and so when I go out I dig a pit and look for it because that layer has caused a lot of avalanches here lately. The pit can't give a total picture of stability, but it's an important piece of information.

If you're interested in spatial variability, here's a paper that's pretty informative and not too technical:

Re: Just Finished Avy 1...

Postby Bean » Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:56 pm

Speaking of buried surface hoar...

When I took avy 1, on the last day we did our tour and split up to dig pits. 3 pits total, two had no significant layers, one had buried surface hoar with a clean failure. It was repeated in that pit twice, and was unrepeatable after that. Use pits to confirm that things aren't worse than you thought, not to show that they're safer than imagined.
"There are no hard 14ers, but some are easier than others." - Scott P

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