Favorite Avalanche Resources

Last winter Anchorage buddy Rob Whitney asked me about my favorite avalanche resources. Here they are, for the moment... they will soon change. This update: September 2017

Please send me your favorite list! I'm dying for hidden articles and podcasts. 

Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center

I may have local bias, but this is the best avalanche advisory on the planet. I’m a major groupie of the work done by Wendy, Aleph, Heather and Graham.  They give you more than the danger rating. They give you the details so you can be informed and learn.

 

Avalanche Essentials, by Bruce Tremper

Avalanche Essentials.jpg

If there's one thing I've learned from 30+ years of trying to understand snowpack and avalanches is that they are extremely complicated. The solution? Simplify! Avalanche Essentials is the simplest text out there. 

 

How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer  

How We Decide.jpg

This is my current favorite book on decision making in the avalanche world. Okay, I'll admit it, I still can't get through Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, although my buddy Henry has read it twice. 

In How We Decide, Lehrer describes the best way to train our emotion for decision making is by analyzing our mistakes...the debrief. In other words, patting yourself on the back for a job well done won't make you any better. An additional tactic Lehrer for improving decision making is Crew Resource Management. CRM is creating an environment in which a diversity of viewpoints are freely shared. Beware of certainty. Seek dissenting viewpoints. 

Snow Fall, The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek

A Pulitzer-winning piece of journalism that shows how humans, even talented and experienced ones, can make really dumb mistakes in the backcountry. We are not robots. 

 

Rescue at Cherry Bowl

Modern multimedia that shows the importance of regular avalanche rescue practice and how to do it.

 

BD/Powder Human Factor, by David Page

Excellent journalism and research. 

 

Slide, The Avalanche Podcast, by Doug Krause

Funny, confusing, heavy, but laced with some real nuggets if you spend the time to dig them out. 

 

The Avalanche Patch

Great links on the website. The book is full of wisdom but I wish it had a ruthless edit and an index. 

 

High Risk/Low Frequency Events, by Gordon Graham

This guys nails it. In a captivating youtube, Gordon Graham describes high risk/low frequency events in the fire service. He says these dangerous situations can be broken down into two groups. The first is high risk/low frequency events where you have time to think. The solution, Graham says, is to “Slow down. Slooow down. Sloooooooooow down.”  I've noticed this reoccurring theme of the importance of slowing down in the mountains, especially in complex situations.  The second high risk/low frequency event is where you have no time to think. The solution, Graham says, is “They can be addressed through serious training.” In the avalanche world, this means practice avalanche companion rescue. Do it several times per year at a bear minimum. 

Common Missteps of Avalanche Practitioners, by Todd Guyn

Canadian Mountain Holidays ski guide Todd Guyn did his research and presented at the 2016 ISSW in Breckenridge. Some favorite quotes from his paper:

For the misstep of Underplaying Uncertainty, Guyn says, "We often overestimate what we know or what we think we know due to past success in our field which can lead to overconfidence. Overconfidence and a failure to recognize the level of uncertainly in the physical environment we work in leads to faulty decisions based on incorrect premises."

In relation to information overload, Guyn says, "Getting more information is not always the correct answer. The challenge lies in getting the data that is most relevant to your issue."