When September arrives people who thrive on winter, start to come alive methodically thinking and talking about snow. So begins the “wait”. In Revelstoke, BC, coffee shop and dinner party conversations quickly turn to people’s guiding or avalanche work and their coveted personal missions.
Last week I was inundated with these conversations and thoughts during a week long avalanche class. An avalanche class in September? Yup, and one I’ve been meaning to take for about 10 years. Finally I got the chance. This class is a bit different and focuses on how big avalanches can run and their expected return intervals. A big part of the class, is using tree and vegetative damage to figure this out. Personally, for me a big portion of the class was a review, but reviews are good and our field trips took me to a few places that I’d never been. Plus it gave me a moment to reflect on last winter.
The winter of 2008-2009 was unique in the southern BC Interior. In December an Arctic Outbreak caused temperatures to plummet into the -30 celcius arena for a few weeks. With only 50-90cm on the ground, the snow turned to depth hoar. I remember while freezing my ass off at guide training up at Baldface Lodge quickly sinking to the ground when standing attempting to observe a snow profile. I distinctly remember thinking that this situation was fucked and the winter was going to be a tough one. It was. Just after Christmas it started snowing and in early January a big storm plowed through the southern portion of BC. Mayhem started in the southern Selkirks. Large avalanches started ripping to the ground, not common in those parts. One avalanche was so odd. I overheard a guy pushing 30 years of experience as a forecaster, guide and rescue specialist mention it was one of the oddest avalanches he’d ever seen. I was thinking the same thing. The slide occurred up Stenson Creek between New Denver and Kaslo, BC.
What a positive experience to head into the mountains and look at huge avalanches from the previous winter, reflect on personal experiences with them, then log this in the memory bank, helping me to set a tone for a new winter. It is almost here.
Forecast that. The avalanche completely defies traditional thinking. It started in dense old timber and
started mowing down trees. The fracture line photos from January 2009 were downright weird. Another
avalanche similar to this occurred up Grohman Creek near Nelson.
- Avalanches continue to amaze me. The thing that is interesting about the Jan 2009 avalanche cycle
- was how widespread huge events were in the Southern Selkirks. Winter 2009 changed the
- perception of avalanche forecasters and guides in certain parts of the Province.