December 07, 2006

Ski Club Rep's Course: Day 5

Today we had snow stability analysis with Graham McMahon. After a brief intro to what we were going to do we headed out and went off-piste to find some interesting snow. We found a leeward slope above the Vanoise lift which had a nice, deep covering of snow and dug a snow pit.

We dug quite a big pit, there were five of us, we all needed space to look at the snow and we got a little carried away... The resulting trench was over a metre deep and around 4 metres long. We analysed the layers, did some snow strength tests on the various layers and then did some shear tests. This was all a little more hands on than when I'd done similar things in Argentina.

Whilst we were doing the last of the shear tests the slope above the pit cracked. This was quite an interesting demonstration of how, due to tension in the snowpack, impacts at one point in the snowpack can cause cracks a considerable distance away. The test was at one end of the trench and the cracks began at the far end and ran across the slope above us. We all got out of the hole quite quickly and Graham then skied onto the fracture and jumped around to see if he could get it to slide. It took quite a bit of work but eventually we got a bit of a slide. The consensus was that had the slope been steeper then it would have slid but as it was it was pretty safe.

We skied around for a bit and then had some lunch. After lunch we did some more off-piste skiing and did some more analysis; "hasty pits", probing with ski poles to feel layers, cutting snow layers with our skis, etc.

One thing that I discovered today was that it's a good idea to actually check that you have all of your avalanche gear with you rather than assuming you have because you packed it... When I went to get my probe out I discovered that it wasn't in the handle of my shovel where it was supposed to be and where I'd assumed it was... I can only assume that I picked up the wrong shovel after one of the sessions in Argentina and now one of the guys has a probe that they didn't previously have! I picked up a new probe when I got back which is easier to use than the one that came with the shovel; it clicks together very fast and doesn't sit in the shovel handle (which, I actually think is a good thing as the one in the handle was always a little difficult to get out).

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Posted by Len at December 7, 2006 06:53 PM | Categories: Season 2 - Ski Days , Ski Club of GB Rep
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