Respect

The Importance of Knowledge, Respect and Humility

What’s the most important tool you should take on a winter backcountry trip? Your transponder and fresh batteries? Your shovel and probe? An Avalung or ABS pack? Your smart phone?

These items can mean the difference between life and death. However, getting caught in an avalanche means someone made a mistake – their tolerance for risk got the better of their respect for the consequences. Avalanches don’t “strike without warning”. Maybe the signs don’t leap out and assault your senses, but they are there for those who take the time to look and think. As Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot by looking”. All the avalanche technology in the world is insignificant when compared to the power of gravity and snow. That is why, in our minds anyway, the two most important tools you can take into the backcountry are:

KNOWLEDGE - You need the education and skills to understand the behavior of snow, and how the properties of water crystals, mountains and gravity work together. Take an Avalanche Safety Course from an instructor working under the auspices of AAA, AAI or AIARE. Spend time in the backcountry with knowledgeable people to help sharpen the skills you learned from instructors. And read The Regional Avalanche Center Forecast before you head out.

A Large Dose of Respect and Humility - There is a huge amount of energy stored in mountainside snow. When gravity overcomes friction, those forces dwarf a human’s.


Graphic Reminders of the Consequences of Getting Caught in an Avalanche

The consequences range from merely scary to catastrophic. Please think about these when assessing the tradeoffs of skiing a slope.

 

               
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