What is your name?
Where do you live?
Salt Lake City UT and Corvallis OR
Have you ever been in an avalanche? If so, please describe the experience.
I have never been in the actual moving snow and carried downhill, but I
have had two close calls. The first was in Utah. It was clearly unstable
and I left a ridgeline which was open in order to travel in thick forest.
But the slope got steeper and the trees actually caused weak areas in the
slab. The snow failed about 40 ft above me. I initially grabbed an
evergreen branch but the snow pushed against my skis and was slowly
pulling me off the branch, so I let go and aimed for the uphill side of
the next tree a few feet lower. This kept me supported. The avalanche was
small but it did go through many trees and could have caused injury at
least and perhaps even death.
The second time was on an ice climb in Canada called Polar Circus. We were
at the top of the climb, 600-800 ft high on a frozen waterfall. By then it
was late in the day and the sun was hitting slopes up above, for the first
time in at least a week since it had been cloudy until this day. The solar
warming caused a slope above us to slide and it all went out over the
vertical ice. I watched it all go overhead but was never hit, my partner
was hit with snow but fortunately he was securely anchored. This was quite
a large avalanche. There are pictures of the climb on my partners website,
a link is on my own climbing page (http://www.csac.org/snowman/climbing/)
What does the CSAC do? Do you do research or avalanche rescues?
We primarily serve as a source of education and a central information
source. We get information to people, mostly to the public but also
technical information to the public. We do not have the funding or time to
actively pursue new research. Rescues are generally body recoveries unless
the persons own group can effect the rescue quickly themselves.
How did you first get involved in being a mountain guide?
It just sort of happened. I found there was effectively no career path in
science unless you spend your life as a grad student and postdoc, so I
ended up doing what I could. This lead to guiding, and I've continually
tried to improve my technical training in this field. I had already
climbed for 15 years or so, but good climbers are not necessarily good
guides. There is a lot to learn.
Is there any advice you have for skiers or mountaineers? Any safety tips?
Basically to remain aware of the possibility of avalanches and other
hazards. Most accidents happen when people become complacent or lack an
appreciation of the dangers. The CSAC website is a great place to learn
more about what causes avalanches and when it is dangerous. There are also
numerous good books and videos, and these can be purchased on our site.
How can interested people get more involved with your organization?
They can contact me at this address. We want to involve more people, but
we don't have the time and resources to follow up much or to provide too
much guidance. So we need people who are adequately motivated.
What do you think can be done in the future to prevent more avalanches or protect lives?
Most accidents now involve recreation. So we need to do more to raise
awareness and to educate people who play in the mountains.
Do you have anything else you would like to tell? (i.e. personal stories, etc.)
Not really, I don't have much time. But if you have more questions I'll try to answer them for you.