Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Human Factor

I have avalanches on the brain lately and immediately after completing my Level 1 avalanche class over a week ago I dove right into reading “Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain” by Bruce Tremper. Tremper’s book is an excellent read and complimented the Level 1 class nicely. The book also reinforced what I thought when I walked out of class: Snow pit study, rescue strategy, and hazard evaluation are all important but Human Factors cause me the most concern.

What are the human factors? According to Tremper, the human factors that repeatedly get people into trouble in avalanche terrain include familiarity, peer pressure, the herding instinct, competition, poor communication, the “sheep syndrome” (blindly following whoever is leading), the “horse syndrome” (a rush to get back to the barn), and the “lion syndrome” (a rush for first tracks).

Let’s just say that my radar is on for things like:

“XYZ slope is safe; there are always tracks on it”

“XYZ slope is safe; I have skied there for 5 years and have never seen an avalanche”

“Let’s go to XYZ slope before anyone else gets there”

“My fingers are frozen and I am late for work so I am just going to drop in here and head to the parking lot”

“I ski this all of the time, don’t be a pu$$y”


Ed said...

Darn avalanches!

Vail had an in-bounds avy a couple of days ago. When ropes dropped on deep fresh lines at Loveland a few weeks ago I dove in and had a great run until I buried my tips and then myself in waist deep concrete. I couldn't move my legs and jj had to dig me out. Had I augured face first into the snow up to my elbows....?

Those human factor bullets are sooooo real and easy to fall into.

Darn avalanches!


Dave said...

Ed - I read about the Vail avy AND the one at Snowbird on the same day. Tragic.
Glad you had JJ with you at Loveland!

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave how much does the fatback weigh?

Chris E.

Dave said...

Chris E. - I edited my Fatback post below.

mark said...

The aspen avy accident was a wake up call to all sidecountry/backcountry users. The victim was very experienced, in very familiar terrain, caught asleep at the wheel.
On a lighter subject - whats the year end crit of your T 29er?