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Perspective on an Uncertain Season

As I ski tour around on the snow that remains from our November storms, I can’t help but feel like it is April and I am almost done forecasting and operating a Snow Safety Program for another winter. The warm days, blue skies, bike rides, trips to the park with the pup, and the turns from my last ski tour melting away keep messing with my mindset.


But the real truth is that it isn’t April and I am not done with another ski season, it is just getting started. It is December 10 and here is the current state of our snow pack: Most elevations below 7000’ have very little snow remaining, solar aspects are melted out and some patchy snow remains in NW-NE aspects. When you reach above 7000’ you will begin to find NW-NE aspects containing 15-18’’ containing 1-3mm facets throughout the pack, although our ground layer 0-8 cm is still showing damp snow with not much creation of basal facets. Creeping into the 8000’ and above range you will still find southerly and westerly aspects back down to the dirt but snow remains once you shift easterly. Good amounts of November snow ranging from 28’’ to wind loaded zones of 45’’ will be found in N-NE terrain with most snow profiles showing 1-3mm facets combined with thermal crusts.


Moving forward how do we manage our snowpack? Perspective, mindset, and decision making are something that ALL of us need to keeping working on, especially in our current situation. We will get more snow and when we do, our perspective, mindset and decisions are what allows these important conversations to continue. We need to recognize that the snowpack now is setting us up for failure later, especially if we don’t hone in how we are going to think for the rest of the season.


Gaining a perspective is how I create my mindset for the day, week, or month and based off my mindset is how I will make decisions in a particular problem or choice. This framework takes discipline, especially during times of high uncertainty and isn’t something you can rely on in the heat of the moment it is something that needs to be practiced daily.


Let’s define these words as we should relate them to our backcountry environment:


Perspective: A particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.


Mindset: A fixed mental disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations.


Decisions: A conclusion or resolution reached after considerations; a choice that you make about something after thinking about several possibilities.


Now for some examples of how to intentionally build this framework:


Gain perspective: Read the daily avalanche forecasts produced by your local forecasting office, follow snowpack data and understand what it is telling you. Read blogs from Ogden Avalanche like you are now (good job!), take an avalanche course, educate yourself on our current snowpack. Also, get into the mountains now, while you can to see the conditions for yourself. Read articles and journals that can give you increased education on avalanche and snowpack formation.


Create a mindset: Write in a journal about what you have seen or experienced. Talk with more experienced people or like-minded people. Use data and true findings to help guide you, create margins and don’t go past them, surround yourself with people that share a similar mindset. Constantly reassess your perspective as conditions change.


Make the right decision: If you have developed an informed perspective that has led you to the right mindset, you will, in turn, make right decisions. Understanding when it is not the right time for you to enter into terrain that is complex, high danger, or contains an unmanageable hazard, will allow you the chance to make that decision again tomorrow.


As we wait for winter to catch up to our expectations and storms to start lining up, I urge you to think about what expectations you have of yourself in the backcountry. How can you safely continue to have fun in the environment we all love? Be patient, and we will all be making turns soon enough.


Additional Reading:


Ying, Yang, and You: Roger Atkins

https://arc.lib.montana.edu/snow-science/objects/ISSW14_paper_O9.02.pdf


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