Quick Pits Part II: How pits help with in-the-field decision-making

“Wait!” my partner said, as we readied to drop in for a second run. “Should we dig a quick pit?” It was mid-December, so digging was easy—the snowpack was only two feet deep. We decided, “Why not? Can’t hurt. Could help a little, maybe a lot. Let’s dig it.”

Mountain Skills: Managing larger groups

The slinky—it’s not just a childhood toy; it’s also a ski-group phenomenon. It occurs when the last person in a large group finally arrives at the break spot, only to see the leaders of the group start uphill again. Traveling in larger groups can cause a variety of challenges and logistical problems, not just related to the slinky, too— think pacing, communication and differing goals for the day.

Mountain Skills: The dos and don’ts of quick pits

Balancing the need to assess snow stability on the skintrack while also making sure your partners don’t freeze can be a difficult task at times. To be safe in the mountains, you need to gather a lot of information on a variety of aspects and elevations, but spending an hour in a snow hole is less than appealing, especially in inclement weather.

Fine tuned and dialed in: Off-season prep for the upcoming winter

It’s only midsummer, but the powder dreams are settling in each night. As the days grow shorter, trailers for new ski movies debut and you’re in the thick of researching next year’s gear, it’s also time to ask yourself how best to keep your skills sharp in preparation for the upcoming winter. Here are a few things to do during the warmer months to plan for the coming winter.

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.

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