Those of you who have been following the news lately have likely noticed the alarming amount of avalanche accidents both in-bounds and in the backcountry. The weak layers that seem to be plaguing the mountain west are undoubtedly contributing to restless nights of sleep for the nation’s snow professionals. I don’t know about you all, but the ‘post control’ avalanches have me nervous. I can’t help but wonder if this season could be one of those ‘change the industry forever’ types where government steps in and puts the regulatory smack down as far as professional training for avalanche workers.I for one, may be psyched at such a smack-down if it meant our avalanche education system would look more like our Canadian counterparts. So far this season the United States has had 9 avalanche fatalities! yikes.

News of avalanche incidents has previously been a catalyst for such changes in Canada— take a look at an older article about the  regulations in British Columbia. Those of you more historically inclined will recall this tragic incident that ultimately led to the development of the Avaluator among other things.

Anyways, I hope the above links were informative if nothing else… On to the tests!

The buzz at this season’s International Snow Science Workshop was all about refinements and discussion regarding new field tests to aid in forecasting a slopes propensity to propagate. Propagation is simply the ability or potential for a fracture to travel or spread from the initial fracture location… Anyways, prior to the introduction of these new tests, the ‘propagation saw test’ and the ‘extended column test’ the only field test that was even remotely indicative of fracture propagation was the time consuming Rutchblock test. Both of these tests the PST and the ECT utilize a larger sample size in order to get a better idea of the properties of the slab.

The ASARC team from the University of Calgary developed this really handy cheat sheet.pdf to aid in performing and recording these new tests. Although I have a general aversion to digging, I find these new tests (especially the PST) have re-kindled my excitement for snow profiles and the theories and goals of these two test are super exciting!—check ’em out!

Considering the somewhat scary snowpack around here, maybe I’ll head into the backcountry with the goal of PST tests instead of skiing!

On the brighter side of things… I had a great tour today with 4 splitboarders (5 if you count me!)  on what turned out to be the nicest day of the season. Really great snow, albiet a little unstable. And yes, I also ride a snowboard. Always have and likely always will…

Mike Bromberg

Mike Bromberg