Mountain Skills: Looking beyond instability

Understanding the current level of risk related to avalanches should be paramount before, during and after your backcountry trip, but knowing what else to look for besides what’s in the bottom of a snow pit can be complicated.

Mountain Skills: Anticipating Point Release Avalanches

This article was originally publish in April, 2015. As the spring approaches, many of us turn our attention to steeper, more technical lines higher in the mountains. The layers of snow that formed throughout the winter begin to gain strength and the avalanche problem is less complicated—it’s ski mountaineering season! But as the temperatures climb, […]

Mountain Skills: Professional vs. Recreational Avalanche Training…what’s in it for me?

This winter, avalanche education in the U.S. will be evolving. The old system of Level 1, 2, 3 will be replaced with two options: a recreational track and one geared toward professionals. The goal of the split is to deliver better, more focused courses to each user group. So how do you know which one’s for you? Here’s the breakdown.

The Skills Guide: Four Steps for Managing Avalanche Hazards

Low, moderate, considerable, high, extreme—the avalanche hazard can be broken into fairly certain terms. But that simplicity belies a much bigger and more nuanced beast, ever changing and deeply complex, especially when paired with personal perspectives on risk and consequence.

The Skills Guide: Four Steps to Overcome Human Traps

Ian McCammon popularized the term “heuristics” in avalanche education in 2002. In his widely circulated article, “Evidence of heuristic traps in recreational avalanche accidents,” the National Outdoor Leadership School educator found that human factors—defined as familiarity, social proof, commitment and scarcity—play a significant role in avalanche accidents.

The Skills Guide: Four Steps to Know Thy Self

Benjamin Franklin popularized the saying “God helps those who help themselves” in his 18th-century Poor Richard’s Almanack. And while Franklin’s country-dwelling character may not have been much of a backcountry traveler, his philosophy holds true today in the mountains: taking care of yourself and your gear leads to safer and more fun experiences.

The Skills Guide: Four Steps Toward Enlightenment

Many snow pros spend their lifetimes researching avalanches, safety or decision making. And while traveling the backcountry isn’t the career of most individuals who are out there, everyone can learn a lesson from those investing their life’s work in promoting mountain safety: education is an ongoing process, requiring constant commitment to practice, progress and inquiry.

The Skills Guide: Four steps for Blissful Ascents

There are few high-output activities as rhythmic, tranquil and calming as skinning. Indeed, the uptrack is a major draw for many, whether it’s deep in the mountains or alongside a resort-bound groomer. But achieving uphill bliss takes practice, attention to detail and the right gear.

The Snow Pro: Steve Banks engages friends and clients in terrain conversations

Steve Banks, a Crested Butte, Colo.-based IFMGA guide and director of mountain guide operations at Irwin Guides, believes attempting to outsmart nature is a fool’s errand. And he’s learned to approach mountains and avalanches with the respect they deserve.

The Snow Pro: Sarah Carpenter is cool with being a snow-science geek

Sarah Carpenter, an AMGA guide and co-owner, guide and educator with the Victor, Idaho-based American Avalanche Institute, believes in the art of the checklist and geeking out on snow science.