Technical information, news, research, and opinion on avalanches, snow safety, and winter backcountry travel.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Finally, Snow

Here in Seattle we're getting rain and cold, but up in the mountains, it's snowing like crazy.

It can't have escaped most backcountry skiing enthusiasts that dangerous avalanche conditions have been widespread throughout most of Western North America this winter, culminating in 9 deaths in the past 10 days. I don't think this is a matter of education. For starters, if you like free education, there are numerous pages on this blog devoted to terrain, weather, and snowpack, along with musings about the psychology of backcountry safety. There are even free exams.

Anyway, I have been thinking about the recent tragedies, and reading threads on TGR, and wondering what I can add, if anything. I think my contribution will be the following quote, which is attributed to Ian Percy:
  • We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.
I'm sure that none of the persons injured or killed in avalanches this year meant to go out and be killed. I'm sure their ski partners were not planning on participating in a backcountry outing that was going to end with a serious injury or fatality.

But this isn't enough. It's so easy to head out into the backcountry and judge ourselves by our intentions, but our intentions are not always as important as our actions. We all have mental pictures of ourselves, sometimes moment-by-moment, and it's incredibly important to make sure that our mental picture ( our intentions ) aligns with our actions when we're making decisions that involve risk.

So, if you're skiing in Western North America, now is probably a very good time to start judging yourself by your actions.

I know I am.

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