White Blog 2

(Ed’s note: The White Blog spotlights all things avalanche safety and backcountry travel. See No. 1, from last week, here.)

By John Davies
Published: January 17, 2011

Last week, The White Blog covered an avalanche in Val d'Isere that killed a British skier, Dave Robinson. Last Tuesday, an avalanche in the same area--a place called Le Fornet--buried five more skiers. Four of them died. That morning, Meteo France had forecasted for moderate avalanche danger--a 2 on a scale of 5-- but warned of weak layers above 7,200 feet. The deadly 300-foot wide slide happened at 8,800 feet. With five deaths from two slides, it has been a tragic couple of weeks for Val d'Isere. Peter Hardy, ski correspondent for The Telegraph of Britain, defended the group's guide, who is a friend of Hardy's, with respect to the latest avalanche.

Enormous slides resulted in a deadly weekend in western Canada, where three skiers were killed in two separate avalanches, and near Geneva, Switzerland.

If it seems like there are more skiers in the backcountry, it's probably because there are. And it's not just in Tahoe. Locally, the Sierra Avalanche Center had a 50 percent increase in web traffic last winter over the previous one, 2008-09. Snowsports Industry America statistics show that sales of AT ski equipment increased over 10 percent from 2008-09 to 2009-10. (Meanwhile, sales of adult "fat" skis, which are liberally classified as 80mm-plus underfoot, jumped nearly 26 percent in the same time period.) Backcountry skiing has become so popular that thieves in British Columbia recently yoinked $100,000 worth of avi gear from a retailer in Golden.

Now for some recent backcountry resources around the web:

Bruce Tremper, the longtime director of the Utah Avalanche Center and author of the invaluable book, Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, and Forrest Shearer, who appears TGR's recent backcountry-centric film, Deeper, recently talked avalanche safety on the University of Utah's KUER 90.1. Listen up, here.

• There's a soon-to-be-released airbag backpack for those that can afford to spend $900 dollars on a backpack. For those who can't, backcountry skiing legend Andrew McLean details his most valuable piece of safety gear.

• Lastly, Jeremy Jones' pilot reminds us, why, "The mountains don’t give a shit about your agenda" while a Finnish man reminds us how not to remove snow from the roof, and these snowboarders hilariously remind us why two planks are better than one.