I AM Dangerous (Danger, dangerous, stupid: Not all the same)

 
A skier goes back to figure out what went wrong. This avalanche in British Columbia was triggered by the second skier. The group knew there was potential instability but underestimated its sensitivity in their desire to ski the line. No one was buried in the slide. Photo: Jackson Hole News & Guide.

A skier goes back to figure out what went wrong. This avalanche in British Columbia was triggered by the second skier. The group knew there was potential instability but underestimated its sensitivity in their desire to ski the line. No one was buried in the slide.
Photo: Jackson Hole News & Guide.

 
 
Drew Hardesty, who is a forecaster for the Utah Avalanche Center in the winter and a Grand Teton National Park climbing ranger in the summer, recently sent me an essay he’d written about danger.
— Molly Absolon, JH News and Guide
 

Utah Avalanche Center, January 24, 2019
By Drew Hardesty
Reprint of “Danger, dangerous, stupid: Not all the same” by Molly Absolon, Jackson Hole News and Guide.
Includes original essay “I AM Dangerous” by Drew Hardesty.

Friday the snow was deep and creamy. It was also sensitive.

My husband dug a test pit on a slope we hoped to ski. A soft slab roughly 70 centimeters thick propagated across the wall of snow on the 17th tap of his extended column test. Not a good sign. We headed for the trees to get our powder fix.

After the first run I found myself drawn to a steep, open slope in the trees. It looked awesome. The snow glittered, white and smooth, inviting my tracks to paint its surface. I rationalized that it was a small slope, anchored by a few trees and protected from the effects of wind by its location. I rationalized that unlike the open bowl we’d originally hoped to ski, this slope didn’t have enough of a load on it to slide, or if it did slide it would be too small to affect me. I rationalized this because I wanted to ski the line.

My husband did not agree. He told me our results indicated a weak, loaded snowpack and he thought it was reckless to consider leaving the trees for any open ground. Sure, it probably wouldn’t slide. But there was no guarantee, and if it did slide, I’d be taken into trees below. He told me I was dangerous.

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