Think Like An
The Art of
Surviving In Avalanche Country
November, 2003--At the end of "Think
Like An Avalanche" producer Doug Abromeit says, "if
there's one thing I'm hoping that people will remember about
this video it's that (the sports of) backcountry skiing and boarding
are only as dangerous as we choose to make them. If we take the
time to measure slope angles, perform stability tests and watch
for clues of instability, then we are playing by the rules, we're
thinking like an avalanche and we are going to make good decisions."
It's a great thing to remember and Abromeit's video does a terrific
job of reinforcing lessons already learned by the avalanche educated,
as well as introducing Level One type basics to newbies.
The video opens with Verbier Alpine Guides'
Hans Solmssen, an old friend of the site and frequent photo contributor,
discussing how a close call a few years ago forever changed his
outlook on winter backcountry travel, "...it's unfortunate
because skiing and being in the snow is such a fun experience
and for me it's no longer a playful thing...I was traversing
I knew there was avalanche danger, and
I was avoiding it, " Solmssen continues.
"I was by myself, feeling like a kid..
it was just a really, really pleasant day, and at that moment
I was in one of the biggest avalanches of my life...I'm no longer
a person that can just go out in the mountains and have pure
fun, everything is calculated to the last detail... so my mind
is filled with details while I'm turning, while I'm climbing
and while I'm walking. But that's a healthy thing I think, when
one is in the mountains you're constantly surrounded by danger,
it's not just a walk in the park."
Think Like An Avalanche proceeds to discuss
and review those details. Things like sources of info, avalanche
safety tools, snowpack layers and metamorphism, stability assessment,
slope measurement, approaches to safe group travel (yes, the
point is made clearly here, "when descending, traversing
or climbing, only expose one person at a time") the
Avalanche Triangle, snow pit evaluations, compression tests,
the Rutchblock, and much more. It's all here. The three components
of the Avalanche Triangle, weather, snowpack and terrain are
than broken down in to a series of easy to understand and remember
red, yellow and green go/no-go steps for evaluating the level
of danger on a given day and on a given tour. In an excellent
overall video, this part stands out as being especially well
Another outstanding segment gives the viewer
an "on the scene of the accident" account of an actual
burial, from both the rescuer and victim's point of view. In
a poignant moment the rescuer describes what it was like to use
her considerable avalanche beacon experience as ski patroller
and longtime bc skier to find and dig out her partner. It made
me want to shut off the TV, get out the beacons, and go practice
in the backyard right then and there.
Yet another fascinating portion of Think
Like An Avalanche is a practical discussion of route selection
and stability assessment by several heli ski guides, pro skiers
and boarders, and by Todd Jones and Dirk Collins of Teton Gravity
TGR contributed much of the action cinematography
included in the video. Here extreme snowboard champion Steve
Classen makes an especially relevant and timely comment (in light
of recent events and discussions) when he says, "it's definitely
important to take an avalanche class if you are going to spend
any time at all in the backcountry, even with a guide."
Clearly all backcountry tourers need to have the skills to make
stability and risk assessments themselves, even when being led
by the most highly regarded professional guides.
Also included are useful "if you are
caught" strategies as well as search and rescue procedures.
Bringing the video full circle is a segment
on "the human factor." The point is made that many
avalanche accidents occur on "red light terrain, on red
light snowpacks, but on green light days." This takes us
back to Hans Solmssen's earlier story of his close call, "I
was by myself, feeling like a kid, and it was just a really,
really pleasant day, and at that moment I was in one of the biggest
avalanches of my life..."
Produced by the USDA Forest Service National
Avalanche Center in cooperation with the American Avalanche Association
and the American Avalanche Advisory Fund, the 49 minute movie
benefits from appearances by renowned avalanche safety experts
such as Doug Fesler, Jill Fredston and Bruce Tremper. The latter's
instructional segments are particularly easy to understand and
A tremendous value, "Think Like An
Avalanche, The Art of Surviving in Avalanche Country" would
be a valuable addition to any backcountry user's video collection.
Available in VHS format only, Think Like
An Avalanche can be ordered exclusively through Black
Diamond Mail Order for just $14.95. All proceeds benefit
avalanche education in the U.S. and Canada.
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