If it can ride, it can slide
Early season snow coming soon- get your avalanche awareness game started now before heading out on a backcountry tour or on a snow cat
With winter here in the Cascades and across the northern latitudes there are things to do besides just dream of pow. Exercise. And nothing wrong with waxing up your boards. But, equally important is getting yourself mentally ready to confront the hazards winter also brings.
There are lots of resources for getting yourself educated on the dangers of avalanches and how to manage the risks, including some of our courses listed below. But, one of the best for Northwest skiers and snowboarders is the Northwest Avalanche Center. They’re gearing up for the season and below you’ll find some great resource links and some things to think about before the snowpack gets big.
Written by Dallas Glass/Deputy Director
Early Season Avalanche Statement from 2021
When dealing with early-season avalanche hazards the bottom-line is simple: If there’s enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide. Whether you’re out in the mountains hiking, hunting, skiing, climbing, snowboarding, or riding, approach steep smooth snow-covered slopes with caution and bring your avalanche rescue gear. Don’t let the date on the calendar fool you when you encounter winter-like conditions; early season avalanche fatalities have occurred.
You are most likely to encounter early season avalanche hazards in higher elevation terrain, on permanent snowfields, and in wind-loaded pockets. This can pose a dilemma since these are frequently the same locations where early-season recreational opportunities exist. Pay attention to how much snow is on the ground and where the wind may pile the snow deeper. This can help you recognize when you transition into areas of deeper snow. Limited information this time of year can make assessing avalanche hazard more difficult. When you find a steep smooth snowy slope assume it could avalanche, take time to make observations, and consider lower angle terrain. Early season conditions harbor numerous obstacles and can make even small avalanches deadly by carrying you through rocks, into trees, or over cliffs.
If you’re out in the mountains let us know what you find. You can share information with your avalanche community by submitting an observation.
NWAC is actively preparing for winter. Avalanche and mountain weather forecasts typically begin in mid to late November as the winter snowpack starts to build. In the meantime, take a moment to check over your gear, refresh on your snow and avalanche training, and get excited about the winter to come.
Thanks to NWAC for this great primer for the upcoming winter. If you’re inspired to get some more training for your winter adventures, below are some links to get your planning started with Mountain Madness.
Avalanche Education Courses (all follow the Avalanche Institute of Research and Education guidelines):
Rescue Course – one day
Level One – 24 hours of course work, including two evening lectures and two field days
Level Two – professional level certification
Backcountry skiing and snowboarding courses:
Backcountry Skiing Fundamentals Course — gets the basics covered and then some; scheduled trips available or custom courses
Splitboard Backcountry Basics — for first-time backcountry splitboarders, or those with some experience; lots of topics covered for both
Alpine Lakes High Camp — one of the ultimate backcountry getaways in the Cascades
Cascades Backcountry Ski Tours — choose your route, or let the guides find the secret stashes of pow for you