NEW ZEALAND AVALANCHE DISPATCH NEW ZEALAND'S AVALANCHE SAFETY JOURNAL
The Only Factor Doug Krause
Bend With the Wind Tim Rogers
NZAD Interview 2
Ruapehu Recurring Andy Hoyle
Kemano BC Avalanche Program Greg Johnson
Proud Partner of The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council
CONTRIBUTORS We have an all-star line-up for Issue Two! Thank you to all of our Contributors! Andy Cole is an IFMGA guide based in the Wanaka area, mainly working for Adventure Consultants. In the northern winter he has been based in Hokkaido and is Head Guide at Rising Sun Guides.
Nicolas Cullen is an Associate Professor in the School of Geography at the University of Otago. His research interests are linked to meteorology and climatology, with a focus on the cryosphere. He has a strong interest in monitoring changes to seasonal snow and glaciers in the Southern Alps, which includes a focus on snow and ice avalanches. Nicolas is the convener of the New Zealand Snow and Avalanche Committee (NZSAC) and a member of the Mountain Research Centre (MRC).
Andy Hoyle (center) Andy has been working at Ruapehu since 2001 in various roles including garbage technician, patroller, unofficial photographer and currently GM Safety and Environment. He lives in the small village of Raurimu with his wife Lis and three boys Tarn, Mica and Koda, dog Echo and cat Nuka.
Greg Johnson is an engineer and avalanche specialist with twenty years’ experience across avalanche risk management, civil engineering, and project management. He holds an MSc in Avalanche Mechanics from the University of Calgary. Greg has worked extensively as an avalanche forecaster for industrial projects and public agencies in the US and Canada, a rescue specialist, and as a ski touring and helicopter ski guide throughout the world.
Doug Krause is an avalanche hunter, historian, writer, asador, and aspiring subtropical savanna ecologist. He currently divides his time between Silverton, Colorado and Harare, Zimbabwe. He likes lions and deep powder skiing and dislikes wind events and wire snares.
Ryan Leong has spent most of his career working on ski patrol at Whakapapa Ski Area on Mt Ruapehu where he runs the snow safety program. Ryan has also intermittently been the MSC forecaster for the Tongariro Region. Alongside skiing, Ryan also enjoys climbing, mountain biking, surfing and parenting- all at a very mediocre level.
Dave Lundin is a ski guide (NZMGA) and avalanche educator. His background is in ski patrol amongst other outdoor work over the last 20 years. Dave is 38 years old, and lives in Luggate with his partner, 3-year-old son and dog.
CONTRIBUTORS Mike Lundin has been working in the ski industry all over the world and New Zealand since 2005. Mike has worked as the Assistant Snow Safety Officer at Whakapapa, and spent a couple summers working for the Kiwis at Scott Base. He is now the Ski Patrol Manager at Cardrona Alpine Resort jumping between helping run a ski resort in the winter and a bike park in the summer.
Aubrey Miller teaches and conducts research in geospatial science at the University of Otago National School of Surveying. His interests and background are in GIS, natural hazards and outdoor recreation. Prior to relocating to Dunedin, he worked for the US Forest Service in Colorado, USA doing recreation planning and management. Aubrey is currently working on a PhD that blends his interests in snow avalanches and geospatial modelling to prepare for extreme events in New Zealand. Simon Morris (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a full-time avalanche technician for the Milford Road with over 30 years in the snow industry in Canterbury and Southland. He has a keen interest in avalanche research with his main research focus in 3-D mapping of seasonal snow and the remote collection of snow and meteorological data.
Mads Naera was born in Denmark where his meteorology career started at the Danish Meteorological Institute. He has been a forecaster at MetService since 2001, where he is on the Severe Weather team, issuing warnings and watches and responsible for snow forecasting. Surfing and skiing - and thinking about surfing and skiing - take up most of his free time. That, and taking his dog for runs.
Todd Redpath (email@example.com) is a PhD candidate at the University of Otago where he also works as a Teaching fellow in the Schools of Surveying and Geography and is involved in the establishment of the Mountain Research Centre. His PhD thesis is focused on the use of remote sensing technologies and spatial analysis to characterise and understand variability in seasonal snow in the mountains of Otago. As a keen snowboarder and splitboarder, Todd is interested in snow as both a water and recreation resource. Tim Rogers was forged from the cold stone of the Granite State of New Hampshire in the northeastern U.S. After twelve years of undergraduate studies at the University of Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon Utah, he finally graduated with a certificate in Deep Powder Dynamics. Currently a bit lost and aimless without being able to continue his streak of austral winters, he's decided to take up paragliding. Wish him luck.
Pascal Sirguey teaches and conducts research in areas of remote sensing and photogrammetry at the University of Otago National School of Surveying. Pascal received a NZSEA award in 2014 for the resurvey of Aoraki/Mt Cook, and received the Charles Fleming Senior Scientist Award in 2017 for his research on snow and glaciers. Pascal currently leads the Matariki Project (MBIE Endeavour) that aims to detect and monitor changes in New Zealandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s landscape with satellite photogrammetry.
Dr. Malin Zachau (firstname.lastname@example.org) has a 25 year career in emergency, prehospital and general practice behind her. She grew up in Sweden and learned to ski, ice skate and walk at pretty much the same time. She likes to base her opinions on data and has carried out coronial analyses of not only avalanche fatalities but also hypothermia fatalities in New Zealand. She has presented at the Southern Hemisphere Alpine Conference in 2017 and 2019. She is also one of the founding members of the new, New Zealand Society of Mountain Medicine. NZAD 03
From the Editor
On The Cover:. A touring party arrives at Pioneer Hut. Image by Andy Cole
Welcome to the September 2020 issue of the NZ Avalanche Dispatch! We have some great articles and information for you to peruse and we are very excited to share it with you! Our Regulars section starts off this issue with a fantastic photo essay by guide and photographer Andy Cole. Next, Tom Harris updates us on the the MSC and the NZAA happenings. Nicolas Cullen rounds the section out with an update from the NZ Snow and Avalanche Committee. Doug Krause leads off the Community section with a thought provoking perspective on our individual decision making. Mike Lundin writes a great perspective about a challenging time during dog handler training this winter. We round off the section with our NZAD Interview and the inimitable Ed 'Cookie' Cook. We have a fulsome Operations section stacked with feature articles from around NZ and the world including contributions from: Aaron Barnett, Andy Hoyle, Tim Rogers, Greg Johnson and Ryan Leong. These expert perspectives should hopefully keep your brain churning for some time to come. In the Training and Education section we have a mix of everything from weather forecasting with Mads Naera to avalanche patient care with Dr. Malin Zachau, and if you want to know where to go to train to be a ski patroller Dave Lundin has you covered with his article on Tai Poutini.. We close out Issue Two with our Science and Technology section starting with an introduction to the Mountain Research Centre by Aubrey Miller, et.al. We peer into the fascinating phenomena of avalanche tarns and their formation with Simon Morris, and we round it all out with an intro to earthquake-induced avalanches by yours truly.
TEAM Managing Editor Brad Carpenter
Assistant Editor Caitlin Hall
Info-graphic Design Avyboy Industries
Creative Editor Edward Anderson
CONTACT Editor email@example.com
Thanks to everyone for supporting us. We hope you enjoy this issue! - BC
NOTE: Issue Two includes a few two-page spreads of info graphics, photos and feature article title pages. As we initially only release content to ISSUU, our two-page spreads are laid out to work on that format. Once we release the PDF version (September 17th) these two-page spreads may layout differently depending upon your PDF viewer. CORRECTION: In Issue One we accidentally mis-reported that Irene Henninger was the Assistant Snow Safety Officer at Remarkables Ski Area. In fact she is the Snow Safety Officer there, but due to Covid-19 she is not there this season. We sincerely apologise for the mistake.
Proudly partnered with The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council
The New Zealand Avalanche Dispatch is published twice a winter season in New Zealand. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior permission from the publisher. Opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the publisher or the editor. Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information in this publication, however the publisher assumes no responsibility for errors, omissions or consequences in reliance on this publication.
Snow and Avalanche Committee
The Only Factor
Te Reo Maori
28 Avalanche Dogs Mike Lundin
Cookie NZAD Interview
Recurring 40 Ruapehu Andy Hoyle
Bend with the Wind
The Kemano Project Greg Johnson
Strategic Mindset Ryan Leong
64 Forecast Funnel Mads Naera
SCIENCE and TECH
73 76 80
Mtn Research Centre Aubrey Miller et al
Avalanche Tarns Simon Morris
Double Trouble Brad Carpenter
09 Andy Cole - Photo Essay 14 Mountain Safety Council 17 Lewis Ainsworth - MSC Featured Forecaster 20 NZ Snow and Avalanche Committee
Photo Essay Featuring: Andy Cole
Ski touring party on the Cleves Glacier.
Andy Cole NZAD 09
Monster sponsored athlete dropping in on the Jura Glacier. Andy Cole NZAD 10
Mark Evans frothing in his office.
Andy Cole NZAD 11
Mark Evans unloads Southern Lakes Heliski guests on White Powder, Minaret Station.
Andy Cole NZAD 12
Sven Gorham in the treeline of Yotei-zan, Hokkaido.
"Being a mountain guide and a photographer means I always have to ask the guide brain if it's okay to take photos. I have got used to the idea that I may just have to miss that shot because guiding my clients always has primacy. When an opportunity does arise, my instinct is to try and record the human interaction with the environment. I like to add the context of the place to great skiing or riding." - Andy Cole
Andy Cole NZAD 13
Mountain Safety Council Winter/Spring Update By Tom Harris Partnerships Advisor Alpine NZMSC Welcome to spring everyone! Hopefully you’ve all had some good turns in the backcountry over the past few months. While winter is tapering off now, avalanche season certainly isn’t, particularly for climbers in the high alpine areas of the country. Now is not the time to relax in avalanche terrain. We’ve been busy as usual at the MSC. Here are a few highlights from early winter:
New Zealand's major news outlets; something we have rarely seen prior. It’s great to see the media have eyes on what’s going on and are keen to share. We believe this has probably come about due to two things: our continued efforts to establish meaningful connections with media outlets, and the media outlets interest for anything non-COVID related. We’ll certainly take it!
2020 NZAA Public Observations update In the May/June issue of the NZAD I discussed our planned updates for the Public Observations tool on avalanche.net.nz. Those updates went live around the same time that issue was released and we have now seen double the number of observations compared to the same time last year. This continues the strong year on year trend of increasing public observations, and we aim for this to continue!
Back in mid-June there were a couple of avalanche incidents, both were on the same weekend in fact. These occurred in Arthur’s Pass and the Two Thumb range respectively. Both incidents involved climbers with similar circumstances of being caught in avalanches that weren’t likely to bury anyone but significant enough to take their victims for a ride and, in one case, cause serious injuries. One of the individuals involved in the incident in the Two Thumb Range (Mt Alm) was happy to share his story when MSC reached out to him. This led to our blog release about the incident which highlighted the events leading up to and following the avalanche, as well as some learning. This blog article can be found here. It’s a great read and a good reminder that early season snow shouldn’t be underestimated and even if an avalanche won’t bury you, there’s still plenty of potential for harm. MSC applauds those involved for sharing their experience. In general, we’ve been really pleased this season with the way the news media have shown an interest in writing about the avalanche hazard and incidents. Compared to previous seasons we’re tracking many more unprompted articles by NZAD 14
Info Ex Update In the last issue I mentioned that MSC was working on major improvements to InfoEx for winter 2020. Those updates went well and we were able to roll everything out just in time for winter. Feedback has been great so far and it’s been awesome to hear that the updates have reduced time required to enter information and have streamlined the process for users: exactly our desired outcome. There will always be more work that we can do on InfoEx, so again, we welcome feedback at the end of the year (or anytime really). Hopefully this year we’ve proved we are listening! While we don’t have quite as much budget this year for improvements we will still look to make some tweaks and changes, so let us know what you think when that time comes if you’re a subscriber.
Part of what has made this work go so well are the adjustments and improvements made to the NZAA website all of which were based on feedback we received last year. If you see something you think could be improved, I encourage you to send us your feedback when we reach out at the end of October. Alternatively, you can always contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you haven’t heard yet we do have some sweet prizes this year for submitting public observations. Lots of Black Diamond gear from Southern Approach has already gone out and once October is over we will draw two grand prize winners from our public observations with photos and contact details. A set of custom Kingswood Skis and a $1000 contribution to a heli-ski trip in NZ are up for grabs, so if you’re out and about in September and October make sure to share your observations! A key point is that these public observations should not stop at the end of winter. The months of November - January in Aoraki/Mount Cook, Tongariro and parts of the Wanaka forecast region are obviously very popular with climbers or late season tourers. We’d love to see continued snowpack/avalanche observations during this time and if you’d like to report other observations like a large rockfall event that has impacted a route, or even crevasse conditions in glaciated areas, feel free by using the observation categories however you see fit and make sure to include some photos. It’s great to have the information out there and available in a centralized location. As many of you know, avalanche forecasting continues in Aoraki/Mt Cook yearround so forecasters will be able to highlight any events you’ve seen if shared this way.
2020 NZAA Forecaster Training Back in June, MSC ran its annual NZAA Forecaster Training in Methven. This was a bit up in the air for some time with lockdown but in the end we were able to meet up and share information, knowledge and insights across the forecasting team for two days. All of our 12 forecasting regions were represented and there were some productive and lively discussions on a range of topics both for today’s forecast and what the future may look like. It was my first time attending in my role here at MSC, and I definitely came away thinking we are quite privileged to have a crew that is so experienced, passionate and flat out great to work with.
Mountaineers and Avalanches As we move into spring, our main group of focus when it comes to the avalanche hazard swings to alpine climbers/mountaineers. November through January is peak alpine climbing season here in New Zealand as many of you will know, and as we also know, avalanches do not discriminate! There’s still plenty of avalanche activity in these NZAD 15
months depending on conditions. In fact, of the 27 avalanche fatalities over the past 21 years, 11 of them have occurred between November and April. That is quite a few when you consider there is far less snow around. (Note: no incidents or fatalities have been recorded for the month of May). Here’s another statistic: Since 1999, 70% of avalanche fatalities in NZ were climbers. This is a bit of a departure from what is seen in North America and Europe where it is usually around a third (and even less in recent years) of fatalities among other activity groups. There are a number of reasons why this may be happening, but at the end of the day, one of the big obstacles to establishing clear understandings is that we simply do not have much data on avalanche incidents involving climbers. Recently, MSC has been analyzing avalanche incident and fatality data for the period 1999-2018. Our data set has 742 avalanche incidents involving people (though there are likely far more) and 27 fatalities. There is a key difference between an activity like backcountry skiing and climbing in the data set. We have 242 incidents of backcountry skiers getting caught in avalanches, and one fatality. For alpine
serve as healthy reminders to the rest of the community. The only way to move forward is to share information. This can make a start on giving climbers more insight into the avalanche hazard and reduce alpine climbing avalanche fatalities going forward.
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Incident totals (blue) versus deaths (orange) per month 1999-2018.
climbing/mountaineering, we have 26 incidents and 19 fatalities. Essentially, avalanche incidents involving climbers are for the most part only being reported when someone dies. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that alpine climbers, on average, are more likely to perish if caught in an avalanche due to the consequences of the terrain they are in. However, it may be a bit of a stretch to go as far as to say very few climbers in the past 21 years have been caught in an avalanche and lived. One small way to move the needle on this is to encourage climbers to submit public avalanche observations on avalanche.net.nz, especially if someone is caught. I only need to refer to the Mt Alma incident mentioned earlier to show how much learning and insight can be gained from one shared incident. These observations can be completely anonymous if desired, but still give loads of insight and can NZAD 16
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Lewis Ainsworth Aoraki/Mt Cook, Two Thumb, Ohau Regions Interview by Tom Harris, MSC Alpine
How did you get into avalanche forecasting?/What’s your avalanche/snow safety background? I was lucky enough to serve my apprenticeship as a mountain guide in Mt Cook working for Alpine Guides where I have beenmentored by some very experienced practitioners in the craft of avalanche forecasting. This was a powerful learning environment as we have multiple forecasters working in close proximity at Alpine Guides allowing for regular critiques and peer reviews of forecasts and the ability to refine the finer things such as the language we use in our forecasts.
What other work are you involved in within your region for the season besides forecasting? I work as a Heliski and ski touring guide in the winter as well as a climbing guide in the summer months. This allows me to become very familiar with the region and all its nuances seasonally.
Best aspects of spring/summer recreation in your region? From a skiers perspective the best thing about the Aoraki Mt Cook region is the ski touring that can be done from the village in a day. It's a great privilege to be able to have lunch at home having skied a 1000m line that morning. Beyond that the opportunities for summer recreation with plenty of rock climbing, mountain biking and mountaineering to be done in the summer months.
Most overlooked avalanche safety points in your region or in general that you typically see/hear about (particularly in spring/summer)? I think that the importance of a good avalanche education is somewhat undervalued in New Zealand. It is interesting dealing with overseas recreationalists, particularly from North America, who often have a mindset that has obviously been cultivated by a structured education program. It would be great to see the NZ backcountry skier and climber taking the same approach.
What are the unique challenges for forecasting in your region? Spatial variability. The Aoraki Mt Cook region encompasses a large area that could be broken down into 2 or 3 climatic regions based on proximity to the main divide. At one end we have a deep, fully maritime snowpack on the main divide, however once you get to the eastern reaches of the forecasting area you are generally dealing with a much thinner and more variable snowpack. It is a challenge to describe all these areas effectively within the constraints of one forecast.
If there was one unique takeaway winter backcountry users should know about your region, it would be: Aoraki Mt Cook has a lot of complex terrain and snowpack conditions to deal with on top of other issues such as glaciation and access. It is certainly a place to be treated with respect.
Any personal spring/summer objectives in 2020? After a couple of northern winters ski guiding I am looking forward to a full summer of pushing my rock climbing as far as I can!
Northern Hemisphere Avalanche Switzerland 14.3% Austria 26.5%
We conducted an informal internet search of multiple sources of avalanche accident data to arrive at the 2019/2020 totals for Northern Hemisphere avalanche deaths.
We share those results here in order to better understand what trends in avalanche mortality the rest of the world experiences.
Although it is a bit morbid, this type of data can illustrate trends we might not otherwise notice, especially when info is stored in disparate databases globally.
30 Skier Snowboarder Sno-Mo
Produced by Avyboy Industries for NZAD
United States 10.8%
Japan 2.4% Kashmir 43.3%
218 Asia* 58.5%
Russia 2.8% *The data from Kashmir and Afghanistan are estimated from various news reports and has not been fully verified.
32.7 Years Average victim age 32 Involved a known Persistent Weak Layer
MALES Accounted for 82% of all deaths Average Slope Angle
Average Danger Rating
NZ Snow and Avalanche Committee By Nicolas Cullen The purpose of the following is to provide a very brief history of the former Snow and Avalanche Committee (SAC) and to introduce readers to the core functions of the current New Zealand Snow and Avalanche Committee (NZSAC): In 1977, the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC) set up the Snow and Avalanche Committee (SAC) in response to concerns that a marked increase of recreation in our mountains was likely exposing more people and infrastructure to the threat of snow avalanches. Importantly, the efforts of members that served on SAC in the intervening years helped MSC become the leading agency for avalanche research and information in New Zealand. One of the core functions of SAC was to collect information about avalanche activity, and to present this information in different ways to promote avalanche safety education in New Zealand. This effort included completing an annual survey of avalanche incidents, and while the record is not complete in regard to non-fatal involvements, the record of fatalities for this period is very accurate. The establishment of the Avalanche Data Centre in 1981 by the MSC ensured SAC had a platform to maintain the avalanche information being gathered during this time. A very good example of the way information was successfully disseminated is the book “Avalanche Accidents in Aotearoa – New Zealand” by Dave Irwin, Will MacQueen and Ian Owens in 2002, which provides detailed information about avalanche fatalities during the period 1860-1999. The book is an excellent resource and was compiled in the spirit that “better information leads to greater understanding of avalanche hazards and a corresponding increase in safety awareness”. After a serious avalanche incident on Monk Glacier in July 1997, which buried a total of six skiers, all of whom were rescued without serious injury, members of the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association helped to develop the New Zealand Avalanche Safety Information Exchange (Info-Ex), which was adopted from the Canadian Avalanche Association’s (CAA) Info-Ex. Steve Schreiber played an instrumental role in making this happen during this period. As many of you will be aware, Info-Ex has become the benchmark for sharing information about snow, weather, and avalanche activity. This service is currently managed by MSC and is a key source of data for maintaining the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory. NZAD 20
In 2014/15 MSC entered into a period of organisational change, which resulted in a shift away from using technical standing committees to a more agile, needs-based model. This led to SAC no longer being required to act as a technical advisory group for MSC. While this ended the formal and very successful 35-year history of SAC acting as an advisory group for MSC, there was strong agreement from all members, including MSC, that SAC should exist independently. It was broadly agreed there was a need to maintain an avalanche focused committee with representation from a diverse and broad range of organisations in New Zealand. The newly formed and independent New Zealand Snow and Avalanche Committee (NZSAC) emerged at the end of 2015 under the strong leadership of Peter Bilous, with the primary purpose of upholding the legacy of SAC to ensure “avalanche safety is continued to be fostered to help reduce risk to those travelling and operating in the mountains”. Importantly, MSC has maintained membership on NZSAC, with the newly appointed Tom Harris being the primary conduit between MSC and NZSAC at present. Don Bogie from the Department of Conservation has been the longest serving member, joining SAC in 1985, while the newest member, Ryan Leong, representing the North Island Ski Areas Association of New Zealand (SAANZ) has come on board this year to replace Andy Hoyle. Importantly, NZSAC continues to bring key individuals in the avalanche sector together for two formal meetings each year – at the beginning and end of each winter, with the minutes of these meetings made publicly available. At present, much of the key information and recommendations made by NZSAC are communicated directly back to member organisations, but other mechanisms have been used to ensure information is distributed as widely as possible when appropriate. Crucially, the New Zealand Avalance Dispatch has created another platform to disseminate key information, which is being driven by individuals and the organisations they represent rather than NZSAC itself (e.g. SAANZ, Mountain Safety Council). There is still much work ahead of NZSAC to ensure it meets its core functions, especially in the education and research space. If you feel that you are part of an organisation that deserves or has interest in being represented on NZSAC please don’t hesitate to contact me or any other member of NZSAC. At present we are looking for a club field
representative for SAANZ, after Nick Jarman from Craigieburn Valley Ski Club stepped down earlier this year. It has been a challenging winter for the club fields on the Craigieburn Range, so having this vacancy filled will be important moving forward. Watch this space and we look forward to using the NZ Avalanche Dispatch as another platform to provide updates to those of you in the avalanche sector. Current NZSAC Membership: Nicolas Cullen (University of Otago and Convener), Peter Bilous (Otago Polytechnic and Avalanche Education Group), Don Bogie (Department of Conservation), Kevin Boekholt (New Zealand Mountain Guides Association and New Zealand Heli-ski Operators Group), Peter Zimmer (Group Support Officer / New Zealand Land Search and Rescue), Kevin Thompson (Manager / Milford Road Alliance / NZ Transport Agency), Ryan Leong (SAANZ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; North Island), Mike Lundin (SAANZ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; South Island), Tom Harris (MSC), Karen Tait (New Zealand Alpine Club) and Jim Masson (New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association).
23 Doug Krause - The Only Factor 26 Te Reo Maori Week 28 Mike Lundin - Avalanche Dogs 30 Ed Cook - Interview
The Only Factor By Doug Krause Memories of the early days of my ski bumdom are hazy at best, but sometime in the mid to late 90s I shuffled into the sharp dry breeze of the car park at the Silverthorne Recreation Center in Silverthorne, Colorado. Crap, I thought, this is one of those things I’m going to have to immerse myself in for a decade. I’d just finished a Level 1 avalanche class, my first taste of avalanche education, and felt no better prepared to actually ski in avalanche terrain than when I started. We saw slides of frozen dead people, were introduced to a dizzying array of grain forms, and learned about Bullseye Information, but for what? In the absence of obvious clues, I felt little better prepared to stand at the top of a slope and answer the relevant question. Will it go? Hence my frustration. It seemed as if I would need years and years of experience to have any hope of developing a whiff of useful expertise – useful for actually skiing good terrain that is, because, yeah, I hate golf. A couple years later I perched high on a rib of Arapahoe Basin’s East Wall talking to my boss on the radio. "Can we open it? ", he asked. Christ, I thought, I don’t know. It would be more than another decade before I felt comfortable managing the balance of evidence and uncertainty, but I had an intuitive grasp of each. Yes, we had evidence of stability. Yes, I had uncertainty regarding the remaining potential for ski triggering an avalanche. So, I guessed, like most skiers do in the face of uncertainty. Open ‘er up. It will probably be fine. I spent some years at Arapahoe Basin learning how to manage terrain and squatting in various holes staring vacantly at 20-layer sandwiches of wind slab and faceted crap. I learned to “never trust a depth hoar snowpack” which is not even remotely helpful advice. Welcome to Colorado folks. Everything is open, but I wouldn’t trust it. I learned to build a measure of trust from a series of wellplaced ka-friggin’-booms supplemented by the ravening hordes pounding those edgy grains into a perceived submission. I think it was 2001 when I started a decade long seasonal pilgrimage to Las Leñas, Argentina. This required significant deprogramming regarding what could and could not be skied. In those days digging a hole in Leñas was more likely to present a wall of white concrete than a poop cake. It was here, in the absence of my little pentolite buddies, that I began religiously implementing terrain margins. They saved my ass more than once. Intuitively I began thinking in terms of avalanche problem types, sensitivity, distribution,
exposure, consequence, and treatment – though I lacked the vocabulary to articulate these issues or ruminate on them in a logical fashion. The form and content of avalanche education assumed urgency for me in 2007 when I took command of the snow safety program at Silverton Mountain Ski Area. The safety and welfare of my friends and the public lay largely on my shoulders now and the gulf between what a ski patroller learns in the first couple years and what they become after eight or ten seasons spread like a foggy chasm with no obvious bridge. We cross this bridge – yet, how? Dumb luck? Mentorship? Trial and error? Yes. All of the above. The survivors show us what is possible by this path, yet our physical and emotional scars bear testament to the peril. There has got to be a better way, a missing link, a map that points the way forward. My true search began. I settled on communication as the first stone – the solid footing that would support us as we attempted to cross the invisible sky bridge between experience and expertise. Here was something not a part of traditional avalanche education, something that was critical and endemic. A skill inextricably entwined with our work that could be taught and practiced and mastered. Surely the benefits of such a skill would percolate through every other critical competency. But, of course, it wasn’t enough. The barely contained whirlwind of Alaskan heli-skiing reinforced my belief in communication skills and highlighted another neglected critical competency: situational awareness. Nothing like Alaskan heli-skiing to highlight any deficiencies in situational awareness. Turns out that can be broken down into its constituent parts and practiced. No more telling people to be the sponge, now we talked about observation planning and integrating those obs into mental models and using them to project forward and consider all that may pass. Here was another foundation stone of decision making. Managing teams in Colorado, and Alaska, and Japan led to the (clearly not) inevitable conviction that teamwork is another critical competency we can define and train for. When I want to learn about something my first step is to usually look for a book on the subject. Well, twenty years ago that was my first step; now, I go to the internet, peruse the fluff for a bit, then drill into the academia on Google Scholar. Avalanchistas cling to their bubbles like a spider trapped by NZAD 23
its own web. We’re not so different from the rest of the world and it turns out there is little new under the cloud deck. There are terabytes of freely available research on communication, and situational awareness, and teamwork, and hazard, and risk, and how hard we suck at managing all of the above. So, there’s the rub, right? We identify problems; we identify solutions; and we even teach folk how to trod the path between them – yet we fail again and again and again. Cognitive bias, logical fallacies, and mental heuristics have been square in the crosshairs of avalanche educators for many years now. Eureka! This is why we fail! So the story goes. Some avalanche educators argue that static fatality statistics in the face of rising usage point toward success. No doubt education improved, but I’m not much of a back-patter – more of a pee-in-the-soup kind of guy. Knowing the nature of a problem and how it may be resolved does not necessarily get us from Point A to Point B unscathed. Thanks to the development of the Conceptual Model of Avalanche Hazard and the incorporation of risk modelling into avalanche education we now have better language and analysis tools than ever before – but…I still see the struggle every day. Too often attempting to divine the sensitivity of a specifically distributed Wind Slab problem up to D2.5 still leaves me at the top of a slope wondering is it gonna go? I can throw a margin on my plan and aim for the center of my operational risk band, but - did I miss an opportunity or get away with something? I don’t know. I wonder if we’re in the right ball park, or even playing the right game. My quest for more stepping stones led me to patience and humility and while researching humility I stumbled on the concept of emotional intelligence. I don’t like that term because it connotes images of validating feelings and supporting each-other’s fuzzy needs. Not that there is
anything wrong with that, but maybe it’s because I’m a dude or I was trained by the dictum - there is no crying in ski patrol. Maybe it’s because I think a certain demographic (like me) will instantly be turned off and dismissive of anything that has “emotional” in the title. I prefer affective intelligence. Regardless, I do like what it stands for. In fact, I believe no subject is more important for safe travel in avalanche terrain. My own macho-friendly deconstruction of the concept leads to a set of four competencies: self-awareness, selfgovernance, social-awareness, and social-governance. This is not the place for a detailed exposition of each competency, but we can dip our toe in the water. Selfawareness is just that. It’s the ability to harness humility and mindfulness to achieve a truer understanding of what is guiding your thoughts and actions. This awareness in turn gives us the opportunity to exercise control over the devilish short cuts and knee-jerk reactions our minds are so wont to embrace: self-governance. Social awareness and governance are taking these same principles and applying them to the other humans i.e. Maybe that guy’s not an asshole, maybe he’s just tired and frustrated; so, I’m gonna be polite and persistent instead of telling him to piss off and hopefully that will get better results. Does that sound familiar? Like maybe something your mom told you, or you heard in pre-school, or in church? Yeah. Every time I expound this concept I can’t help but mention the obvious, that it will not only help you and your partners more effectively navigate avalanche hazard, but it will engender benefits in every other part of your life too. Turns out, it’s not about being a better avalanche person, it’s about being a better person. That’s my epiphany. We are not just a factor in avalanche terrain, we are the factor, and until we learn how to manage our own behavior and apply those lessons to those around us – all is for naught.
Here is another great example of how you can help support your snow and avalanche community:
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Te Wiki 0 te paroro (storm cloud)
Maramaiwa 14th to 21st, 2020
Produced by Avyboy Industries for NZAD
Behind the Scenes An Insight Into a LandSAR Avalanche Search Dog Team By Mike Lundin Two years ago I was standing at the top of Cardrona Ski Area when I got a phone call from the Queenstown Police asking if I was available to go on standby for a possible avalanche involvement. I remember this call as if it were yesterday, because it's the closest I've ever come to having a panic attack. After two years of training I was being asked to put the skills Stellar, my dog, and I had been practicing up to that point into action and it scared me. Even though we were stood-down reasonably soon after the initial call that feeling has never left me. Dog handlers, as well as their dogs, have a responsibility to the wider backcountry community to help whenever asked. The longer you spend in the mountains for work and play the more people you know who have had close calls, accidents and, from time to time, there are unfortunately those who don’t make it home. The search and rescue hounds and handlers of New Zealand are another level of defence that may just help get someone back to their family and friends.
Avalanche search dog teams across New Zealand dedicate huge amounts of time training and helping each other to train. The journey of getting a pup trained up and gaining operational status is massive but maintaining that standard and being “fighting fit” when you are needed most is almost more difficult. Stellar and I have been an avalanche search operational team for three years and, until recently, we've made steady progress at all of our assessments and training camps. This enjoyable and rewarding success allowed some complacency to creep in and eventually set us up for a fall at the dog training camp at Ohau this past June. I have seen many great handlers and their dogs have bad days and I myself have now experienced that same thing for myself. What exactly went wrong? I'm not sure, but we've been in a rebuilding phase for the last month or so and have slowly returned to our previous form. The rebuilding process took us back to square one of the training pathway. We worked on simple obedience and search exercises that did not require a huge amount of effort from Stellar. These sessions finished with some energetic play/reward. This process was used to re energize Stellar and a reminder that her job is a lot of fun before slowly increasing the duration and complexity of the searches.
footage of practice searches, provide feedback and lend support and guidance to help Stellar and I regain our mojo. I would like to think that we won't be in this somewhat compromised position again but just like humans, our fourlegged workmates can have “off days” from time to time. It is our job as dog handlers to recognise when this may be happening and figure out what contributed to its occurrence. Stellar is a great dog. I love the fact that she gets to come to work with me everyday but ever since I received that first phone call deploying us to an avalanche site, I have also appreciated the weight of responsibility associated with being part of a search and rescue team. Our recent “blip” in training has reinforced this responsibility. I would like to thank New Zealand Landsar Search Dogs the wider search dog community and the amazing Ski Patrol team at Cardrona Alpine Resort for lifting Stellar and I back up to a place where I know we can be of service once again.
This process has taught me the importance of taking a step backwards from time to time in order to move forward (very cliche I know). It has also made me realise how much dog handlers have invested in the process and it is so much more than just time and gas money. I can admit that complacency got the better of me as I relied heavily on Stellar and my past successes. I now realise that the lack of consistency over the summer months took a toll on our small team. The reason we performed well in the first couple of seasons was due to a huge amount of on-snow training time and the massive amount of help we were given along the way from some key people. I left the Ohau assessment camp feeling overwhelmed about where Stellar and I were at, and wondering how I was going to get us back to a place where I felt confident in our abilities as a team. It took a few weeks of dedicated and targeted work but Stellar and I are reading each other and the search sites successfully once again. However, the credit sits squarely on the shoulders of a much broader group of people: work colleagues, other dog handlers, LandSAR Search Dog examiners and multiple friends have all stepped up by volunteering their time to help scent clothing articles, help bury those clothing articles, stomp search sites, take video NZAD 29
e i k o o C
A Conversation with Ed Cook
In this issue of the New Zealand Avalanche Dispatch we interviewed Ed Cook. Ed has been working and playing in the snow for his entire life and brings a professional and playful attitude to his craft. Ed is passionate about the next generation of NZ ski patrollers and snow safety officers and continues to be a strong mentor to other eager folks coming up through the ranks. A big thanks to Ed Cook for all the wise words and awesome photos! Enjoy!
Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like? When/where did you start skiing? I grew up in The Swamp (Christchurch), youngest of three, and was lucky to have parents that were at their happiest in the mountains. I learnt at a very young age that the best thing about Christchurch is…..that it’s a great place to leave! So much adventure within an easy drive. My Dad had been very active in the NZAC in the 50’s/60’s and climbed with Kiwi legends Bill Beaven, and Norman Hardie. He continued and shared his passion for the hills with all 3 kids right thru to his 70’s, and we had many happy tramping trips following his bandy legs up and down mountains and rivers. He made sure we all had a good understanding of river crossings and snowcraft. My Mum is a landscape artist who specialises in alpine scenes using oils. So it’s easy to see how a love of the hills is in our DNA. My first turns on skis were at Roundhill at around 5 years old – hand me down lace-up boots, cable bindings, and woolly gloves. We used to paint the bottom of the wooden skis with red paint to make them go faster. My mum and her lovely friend, Annie McGregor, used to bundle seven kids into a tiny Mini and an old Holden station-wagon and head to Tekapo for the August holidays. Renting freezing shearers quarters near Roundhill, they made these winter adventures so much fun. I’ll admit I preferred toboganning at first but my sisters soon cured me of that. Then as young teens we were regularly sent off to one of the Canterbury Ski Clubs for a ski-week in the August school holidays to learn some party skills… and try some skiing. My first kiss was at Temple Basin...
"It’s been more like following a passion, than a career..."
Where have you worked during your career? It’s been more like following a passion, than a career, as I’ve taken time out to develop a couple of tourism oriented businesses along the way. I got drawn to Europe in my early twenties, went for 3 months and came home 10 years later with a fiancé. I lucked into resort ski guiding with a British company for many winters, enjoying seasons in Kitzbuhel, Austria, and the Swiss Lauterbrunnen Valley (Wengen, Murren and Grindelwald), before starting my own ski guiding venture in the Trois Valleés in France. It was called ‘The High Five Ski Safari’, and using a specially equipped tour coach we would ski groups through the Albertville Winter Olympic ski areas of Meribel, Courchevel, Val Thorens, Val D’Isere, Tignes, and La Plagne/Les Arc, over a 6 day tour, then do a negative turnaround at Geneva airport welcoming the next group a couple of hours before the last group left. I drove the Coach and ski guided the most confident skiers in the group, and my fiancé ran the apres ski and entertainment.There wasn’t much sleep and a lot of blurred memories. Back at home in Godzone I was welcomed by the crazy family that is the Mt Olympus Ski Club, alias ’the-drinking-club-with-a ski-problem’, and worked just about every job on the hill over many seasons.
Ski tour business, France, 1994 NZAD 31
Eventually I gained enough experience to pass my Av Two in 1999. And for the full circle, 41 years later I returned to Roundhill as their SSO on the recently opened Heritage Express rope-tow terrain – and enjoyed a good snow year to really appreciate the expanse of the worlds’ longest rope tow. These days I’ve retired to the snow safety role at Porters, and the luxury of a chairlift and T-bars. The high consequence terrain and dynamic weather gives us a healthy focus, and the amazing Porters crew have become my new family.
What year did you get your level 2 avalanche certification? 1999. Last century already…
How did you get started with ski patrol and snow safety work? Mostly all backcountry thru my early association with Mt Olympus, and working with various mountain people over the years, and continents. I do remember waiting at the Schilthorn Gondola station listening to the explosives control work after storm cycles echoing thru the deep Swiss glacial valleys and wondering how I could get involved in that. It seemed so distant a desire at the time! Formal Av qualifications were still in their infancy in the 90’s, and there were some pretty scary moments and close calls that wouldn’t be acceptable by today's standards. My first visit to Mt Olympus at the age of 16 involved a heavy NW snowstorm, abandoning a car in an active avalanche path, an epic walk up thru running avalanches in the dark, and the complete avalanche demolition of the access rope tow only a few hours after we’d used it to get to the Top Hut. I thought it was pretty exciting at the time. Then in 1993 I was involved in a dramatic rescue in Switzerland of a heli-skier that had stepped out of a heli, walked away to have a pee, dropped thru a covered crevasse and was wedged some 30m down with his chest compressed between the ice walls. I was helping instruct Alpine Skills to a group of American soldiers on a glacier nearby, the heli-pilot had seen us and so we were flown in to assist. I remember seeing the looks on his family’s faces as we roped him up, re-sussed him and he came back to life. An inspirational moment realising that I could make a difference in the mountains.
What (if any) “Golden Rule” or rules, do you live/work by?
Resort ski guiding Switz, 1992
"Take every opportunity, ask lots of questions of your Mentors, and show them your Passion."
The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz would be my favourite. So simple and life changing. Read It ! And Gratitude - fill your life with it – it creates a delicious positive feedback loop. Who were your mentors or inspiration in your career? I've been lucky to have crossed paths with a lot of good mountain folk – in NZ, Europe, Canada, Nepal, India, Japan and the USA - all have added their inspiration and wisdom in some way. Young and old. It wouldn’t do justice to single any out. But regularly I’m re-inspired by the young crew coming thru Tai Poutini who I meet again a few years down the track - living the dream, in various snowy parts of the world. What is the biggest change in NZ skiing since you started? Control work used to be only from the top of the lift down. We made up explosives in 2 litre milk bottles, that were very slippery and ineffective, and
Kashmir Valley, Indian Himalaya, 2008.
Mt. Sefton 2018
always lit with a match-head spliced into the fuse end. Above or beyond the lifts rarely got skied. It changed as the new gear, skills and ski movies had their impact. Now control work has to be from Peak down, I don’t carry matches anymore and no-one wants the groomer on a powder morning. Hike-to terrain is so much higher valued now. Where is your favorite place to ski? Planet Earth?! Every continent has its particular flavour – it’d be hard to single out any one…but I have recently discovered a small resort in backcountry northern BC that has won my heart. Expansive glade skiing, average 10m snow/season, remote and quiet, with some hard-core very welcoming locals. Out of respect for the Legends of The Azu, I won’t be naming their slice of Paradise! What event in your career has had the biggest influence or impact on you? Creating the 3500 litre hot tub at Mt Olympus. Definitely a defining and most satisfying moment in time. What would you tell someone starting out in the snow/avalanche world today?
Take every opportunity, ask lots of questions of your Mentors, and show them your Passion – they’ll respond when they see yours. And that old saying still holds true….– “The avalanche doesn’t know that you’re an expert” What gives you the most satisfaction in your work? The wonderful, resourceful and skilful people I work with on the mountain. The crew that has your back, and you have theirs. (And First Tracks of course !) If you couldn’t do snow safety work anymore, what would you do? A sunny verandah, comfy couch and a supply of good Bubbles comes to mind….. What has been your favorite make and model of ski? I’ve had 3 pairs of K2 Coombas over the years – and am still using a decade old pair as my control route rockhoppers. But sadly, with the newer Coombacks they’ve changed to lighter construction that delaminate easily on NZ rocks. I tend to choose a ski with flat tails so they can be stuck in the ground, and I prefer around 104 mm waist as my turns are a mix of off-piste, and Maritime hardpack - a versatile width. NZAD 33
What has been your least favorite make and model of ski? Why? I don’t enjoy the really light skis with soft early rise tips – at 6 ft 2, they fold up too easily on me. What is a piece of skiing equipment that you wish they still made? I’ve just retired my old ‘SOS’ brand snow-shovel, and find they’re now out of production. I loved it because it had an integrated snow-saw in the handle – ideal for work, quick pits and ski-touring. However I’ve just lucked into an even better replacement – one where the integrated snow-saw also attaches to the extending handle so I can easily saw the back wall of ECT’s. It’s by an American Snowmobiling Gear company called “Klím”. The saw and handle are solid – but the shovel-blade could be a little thicker. Guess those snowmobilers only dig continental pow! Check it out – they’re online and ship in about 3 weeks. What is the biggest challenge facing the NZ skiing industry? I think the industry has had a wake-up call this winter with the lack of Kiwi SSO’s and Senior Patrollers available. Our local resilience has been tested and found wanting, as we’d been too focused on importing overseas patrollers to fill the roles and forgotten to enable young kiwi patrollers thru their professional training. It’s an expensive and lengthy pathway for young patrollers and until recently the remuneration/cost balance hasn’t stacked up. The skills of good SSO’s are just beginning to be appreciated in this part of the world, so I’d love to see more support for patrollers to grow and stay in the industry. How do you prepare for the start of winter? Websites? Weather pages? Note taking? First is to drag my gear out of the dark corners of the garage and check it over well before the season starts. See if it fits, needs repair or replacement. Wind the binding springs back up, waterproof the Kinco’s, then stash it all together ready to go. That gets me inspired, as I don’t want gear worries when the startup busy-ness is coming on.Then in the autumn evenings I’ll read back thru SOP’s, refresh on favourite manuals, keep on top of industry developments by attending SHAC, reading the seasons AAA TAR’s and of course the latest Avalanche Dispatch! I also like to start dialing into early snowfalls and late autumn weather patterns so I’ll already have a good idea of what’s sitting around in those Polar SZ’s before I get there. And lastly get a flu shot so I don’t miss any powder days, lay in winter supplies, keep the leg fitness up, and turn up the essential hot-tub.
Singing Pass, BC, 2014
"I’d love to see more support for patrollers to grow and stay in the industry."
Have you noticed any particular trends in the NZ snowpack over your career? Nope – it’s still white and cold just like it used to be. Have you noticed any particular trends in the NZ snow climate over your career? I think Todd Redpath summed it up brilliantly at last years SHAC conference – “predictably highly variable”! In the Office…. NZAD 34
Rodëln, Murren, Switzerland 1993. "The tobogganing (Rodëln) was a blast. We used to take a gondola up to the top of Murren, Switzerland, have a schnapps and fondue party then toboggan 2000m to the valley floor on old logging trails. Was Chaos! Definitely a right and wrong technique on those leg breakers…."
What do you do when you aren’t skiing or working winters?
Can you describe your most favourite day of snow safety work?
Providing for the kids used to take up most of that time but now they’ve got me trained it’s got a lot easier. I try and get some climbs ticked off the bucket list in Spring, some tramping/mountain-biking/jet-boating missions during summer, if I’m lucky a couple of months chasing pow in the Northern Hemisphere, and there’s always workshop projects on the go.
There’s been quite a few... used to love post-storm Avalauncher mornings at Olympus, the ritual of missile production, setting up the nitro-cannon then the Ker-thunk, silence, Ka-boom ! And there’s been many stunning sunrises over fluffy carpets of valley cloud below while on control routes. But my most favourite was after a big southerly drove up Lake Tekapo and coated the Mackenzie from Peak to Lakeside with a thick cloak of white goodness. Marc and I were running a heli-bombing mission up on the Heritage Rope Tow, and after delivering the load, we were dropped off at the top to finish off control on skis. We stepped out of the Heli into 90cm of cold dry blower (see title page photo). And as we floated down ‘assessing the snowpack’, the crisp air was sparkling with floating crystals, on a background of deep blue sky, and mirrored lake beyond. Pure magic. At the bottom waiting for their turn were a very expectant queue of seasoned Kiwi powder hunters. But sadly the lifty didn’t have the go ahead from management for another half hour – so we were forced to head up the rope for another couple of laps just to make sure it really was safe!
Can you describe your most difficult day of snow safety work? Sometime around 2005, we’d had early snow, followed by 4 weeks of cold bluebird, and the faceting had developed strongly. From town, the mountain looked fat and ready to go. We flew in to open up Olympus, heli-bombed the first day with spectacular results, hand-charged all the second day, and survived ski-cutting the last pockets on the third – then had to go back home on the fourth coz’ there was no snow left on the side of the hill…. The clubbies were well miffed!
37 Aaron Barnett - The Three Headed Monster 20 Andy Hoyle - Whakapapa Avalanche Cycle 21 Tim Rogers - Bend Like the Wind 22 Greg Johnson - The Kemano Project 23 Ryan Leong - Adapting the Strategic Mindset
The Three Head The access road to Mt. Cheeseman bisects several slide paths including the 600 vertical meter Three Headed Monster. On September 9, 2017 it didn’t run full path but it did run big enough to catch our attention. The story began on September 8th when we received a fair amount of new snow. Mitigation operations that day found great stability and blue skies. Moderate storm conditions evenly filled the normally stripped Monster. The clear September skies were just enough to produce a light melt freeze crust on the east facing slope. That night we received more new snow and some wind but still awoke to clear skies. As the sun rose, we loaded our packs and headed out to perform our due diligence. Initially we did not control the skier’s left start zone of the path because it looked similar to the day before. Instead we worked our way down between two start zones and shot the middle one. The large slide that resulted surprised all of us as it ran to and then over the access road leaving a nice pile behind. The loading in the skier’s left start zone was now more obvious. A single shot was all it took. It cleared the entire skier’s left start zone as well as hang fire from the first slide. The second slide was significantly larger than the first depositing even more debris on the road. At this point the grader driver was sent back to the shop to fetch the snow cat. The snow cat was necessary to clear the road and proved useful for a photo opportunity to demonstrate the scale of the debris. On that day we were reminded that a moderate storm can collaborate with an insidious bed surface to produce large destructive slides. - Aaron Barnett
Upper Big Bowl Size 4 event, lower track. At this elevation it is clear it was in a slow flowing mode and sticking primarily to drainages. The crown walls are visible in the background in shade just below ridge top.
The 2019 Ruapehu Avalanche Cycle By Andy Hoyle All images Andy Hoyle unless otherwise noted. Over the course of the previous two winter seasons what we know about avalanche control at Turoa has changed dramatically. Over the last 300,000 winters (or more depending on your belief system) since Ruapehu was formed, it's a certainty that ‘Koro’ has seen it all before. Our meager 100 years of ‘records’ gave us a very false sense of confidence in our ability to predict run out distances for the high altitude avalanche paths on Ruapehu. Of course there were the locals around the place that took pleasure in telling us how often they have seen these sort of events and how it was ‘nothing to write home about’. Well, we’re writing about it because it is an interesting story and we think it’s these sorts of interesting stories that make awesome learning experiences for all others who might be in similar positions in the future - here on Ruapehu or elsewhere.
During the second half of July 2019, both ski area snow safety teams (Turoa and Whakapapa) were tracking several interesting layers of concern on various aspects and it was pretty clear that once there was more load placed on these weak layers of facets we might be in for some significant results. It just so happened we were about to descend into a solid week long storm session where we would log around 112 cm of new snow. ‘We had 2 noted facet layers that formed early in the season: 190706, and approximately 190720). The first was pretty quickly buried and heavily tested with no results and was considered dead. The second was destroyed by a rain event and subsequently put to bed.’ Ryan Leong - Whakapapa Snow Safety Officer.
In July 2019 we had around 140cm on the stakes at 2000m. On various aspects around the mountain we had what could be described as a slightly unusual situation brewing for the North Island: some form of faceted grain type causing deep and (somewhat) persistent weak layer(s). Most of the time on Mt Ruapehu we deal with storm snow weaknesses which can be resolved in 24-48 hours, either through passive or active control measures. However, just to keep us on our toes, every now and then, we are thrown a more challenging puzzle to work through. On August 6, the Whakapapa team managed a size 3.5 out of Te Heu Heu Valley Headwall - True Left. Photo 3: Snow profile performed by Turoa Snow Safety Officer Dave Kelly on the 16th of August - a day after the large results at Turoa. The events of this cycle appear to have occurred on the problematic layer identified at around 37cm on this profile in faceted grains. Crown depths for Upper Slider around 5-6m in the start zone!
Photo 2: Ryan Leong and Colby Atkinson investigate a cold and shady location prior to the storm at Whakapapa. NZAD 41
Photo 4: Control team above the Te Heu Heu Valley Headwall - True Left start zone with a live case charge being lowered on rope into position.
‘It was shot mid storm and went 2.5m deep, the deepest crown I have seen out of the headwall - cant see records of anything deeper? This failed within the storm snow and was Swd, but involved lots of snow...so I’m thinking this clean-out prevented anything bigger as it kept storming after this and buried all crown and debris by the time we got clear skies to see it.’ - R Leong.
managed to get one charge on the slope (see photo 4 above) but did not get any significant results. On the 10th of August, the day after this photo, the Whakapapa Patrol Team managed a Size 3 out of a path called ‘Moonsteeps’. 'This failed below multiple ice lenses on a thin layer of developing facets, but all of this had occurred within the storm snow (prolonged storm). so wasn't a previously formed FC layer which then got buried.’ - R Leong. We then descended back into another couple of days of storming and received another ~20cm. On the 15th of August, both ski patrol teams started early with plans to test the new load of snow and how well the now deeply buried weak layers would hold up. The day began with groomer transport, light winds, blue skies and the anticipation of some good results from hard work.
Photo 5: The amazing views from the saddle on our way up to ‘Moonsteeps’.
On August 9, Whakapapa Ski Patrol teams attempted to undertake some high level avalanche control on the Te Heu Heu Valley Headwall at the end of the day. During the mission, the team experienced significant ‘whoompfing’ which communicated across the whole upper mountain of Whakapapa. I was taking photos and was located over 1km away from the team and clearly heard the settlement race past me - something that is very rare on Ruapehu and I’m not ashamed to say we were all pretty spooked. The guys NZAD 42
Bendy (Brendon Nesbit - Safety Services Manager Turoa) had organised for the helicopter to be at Turoa as early as possible and prior to the machine arriving, the snow safety team had made assessments of the conditions, planned out what explosives would be needed and then briefed the second wave of patrollers once they arrived. This happened simultaneously at Whakapapa. On this occasion, the Whakapapa team were planning to "borrow" the helicopter after Turoa had finished with it in order to control some really hard to reach start zones in the Pinnacles which needed to be tested with large triggers (half
Photo 6: Pre-control day briefing for the Turoa Ski Patrol team.
sack ANFO shots). This was to prove less than effective - see lessons learned section below.
So what did we learn and what would we want to pass on to the next team dealing with this situation in the future?
I was personally tasked with a short mission up into a path we call Lego Land which involved a bit of climbing and some amazing views over the North Eastern flanks of the mountain. Joel and I were successful in deploying the test shots that we had been directed to and started our journey back down into the ski area. We reached the point where we had stashed our skis and started to take our crampons off. At about that point I received a radio call from Customer Relations requesting that I call the Ski Area Manager at Turoa urgently. I turned my phone back on and made the call.
Use technology. This control day highlighted to us that the RAMMS modelling was actually pretty solid but, in hindsight, we needed to increase our scenario failure depth. I’m happy to admit that I didn’t foresee a 6m crown depth at the time we were discussing this with our consultants. We would highly recommend all operations consider validating runout distances with RAMMS (or similar) modelling (see photo 8)..
“Andy, we have had a significant (Size 5) result from heli bombing and we need to talk with you and Ross (then CEO) about our next moves”. Once back under way, the team managed another significant result - a size 4 from Upper Big Bowl (see photo 7) from another 20kg ANFO case charge. This slide overran the RAMMS models by over 20% and actually cruised right through the ski area and out the bottom boundary again leaving a shear and un-travel-able bed surface in its wake. Fortunately, these were to be the only two significant events for the remainder of the day and the ski area was opened to staff to begin the dig out process.
Use all your sources. Although computer modelling has proven to be really useful in backing up our somewhat limited historical records, never forget the wide range of historical sources that might be out there lurking in old facebook pages etc. Photo 11 (below) is a screenshot from Facebook with some images of large scale natural avalanche cycles that occurred in the late 70’s. Interestingly, on the 14th of August 2019, a public observation was logged on the NZ INFOEX platform illustrating a similar scale event (see photo 9). Tell the stories often. Remember, the earth is 4.543 billion years old. Our ‘historical’ records don’t really scratch the surface so to speak. Question everything you think you know NZAD 43
Photo 7: This image shows the two large start zones, the left hand side being Upper Slider and the right hand one Upper Big Bowl. For scale, the crown on Upper Slider was approximately 6m deep.
about your operational area and donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be naive in thinking that we have all the records. But also look carefully through your records for more recent trends. Take lots of photos and file them in places where future teams will be able to locate them. Pre-storm planning is critical. The snow safety teams at Whakapapa and Turoa correctly anticipated the conditions we found on the day (yes the results were larger than we expected) and all personnel were kept out of run out zones. Always have a plan B. We had planned to share a helicopter between the two operations. In the end, this did not work well as the control work at Turoa took significantly longer than planned to execute (for good reason). This caused a significant delay for Whakapapa. Infrastructure planning is critical. At the time of constructing the High Noon Express ski lift there were clear indicators that it was located in the path of potential avalanches. The return station was even built with this in mind and slightly recessed into the hillside. In winter 2018 the avalanche that took out the two top towers of this lift was a size 4 and the slab depth was less than 1 meter. Our modelling now shows that the lift is much more at risk thanÂ NZAD 44
Photo 8: The figure above is a composite overlay with a RAMMS model for a 2m crown failure (coloured) and the actual events that we observed on the 15th (white). Dave Kelly.
was previously assumed. Our work to mitigate this risk is ongoing but short of moving the lift we are somewhat hamstrung. Why the start zones above the High Noon Express did not perform on the 15th of August 2019 is unknown but assumed to be due to different weather conditions and exposure to wind at the time the weakness was first laid down.
Photo 10: The lower ski area boundary at Turoa on the 16th of August, a day after two large avalanches were triggered and ran right through the ski area.
Photo 9 (above): Large natural event from below Tukino Peak running down the Mangatoetoenui Glacier taken on the 14th of August 2019. Photo: Simon Edmonds.
Photo 11: Sections of debris were left sitting in the track which bisected the ski area and the friction created during the slide motion left an impenetrable bed surface.
BEND WITH BEND WITH BEND WITH THE WIND THE WIND THE WIND
By ByTim TimRogers Rogers By Tim Rogers
Four Seasons of Learning at Ohau It’s July and instead of being on the South Island battling the wind and eating the crackle off a Fairlie Pie, I’m beating the heat of a Utah summer, running through wildflowers and watching my country go through some serious growing pains. I miss trying to tie the door to the top shack closed so it won’t break open and fill with snow, I miss waking up at four in the morning to watch the sunrise over the Southern Alps, I miss pinching a ciggy off Jake at the end of the day. I’m looking through old pictures and reflecting on four winters spent in one of the most beautiful places, with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I’m trying to remember the avalanches and all the lessons I’ve learned and forgotten. All that comes to mind are the perfect mornings topping out on the ridge, watching the slope turn red as Cam finally makes perfect turns down to the base, and then laughing uncontrollably as he inevitably hits a patch of punchy, wind-blown snow and stuffs his face deep into the snow.
The reasons we fall into this line of work and the reasons we stay in it are all the same. They’re simple but they can also get mixed up in a confusing mess leaving us wondering why we didn’t get a job that affords us all the nice gear and far flung vacations. Luckily for us, the reminders of why we’re here are everywhere. They are the moments when you're on top of the mountain and the sun is just kissing the slope, the moments when the wind is ripping and the shot goes off, when you’re standing under a crownline reaching your pole up it’s face, or when you’re slashing through cakey wind drifted pow. These are the moments that remind you, without a shadow of a doubt, that you’re on the right track. I learned a few things about snow and avalanches at Ohau but they pale in comparison to what I learned about people, about myself, and about trying to run an avalanche program. The snow can be a mystery: crystal types and metamorphism, weak layer
compression strength and propagation. The real mystery will always be us humans trying to control this unique and natural phenomenon. Every avalanche is an opportunity to learn, but so is every shot that only leaves a hole. Gabe, one of my route partners at Alta Ski Area in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon, used to yell at me to make a forecast of my own every day to anticipate whether or not the shot I was placing would produce a result. I used to wonder why you’d place a shot if you didn’t think it would make an avalanche. I thought about it hard and considered how much uncertainty we deal with and slowly, very slowly, I began to understand. I tend to learn like a slab forms: through accumulation. Just like a slab, I can be a little thick and stubborn, but despite that I’m sure the understandings I’ve gained about people and how to stay safe and manage avalanche hazards are far more important than how many taps it’ll take to make a pile of snow fall over. We tend to think that prior planning and proper protocols can protect us from dangerous mistakes, but that that’s not always the case. Whether it’s a snow safety program or a touring group, it’s just as important to foster a culture of inclusivity, curiosity, and humility as it is to follow a paradigm of protocols and rules. Creating a framework for growth and communication allows you the space to learn, to make mistakes, and to still have some fun while being safe.
A lesson is a period of teaching or learning, but it’s the understanding that results from this experience that’s important. We’ve all experienced lessons that needed to be repeated, and we can all recall times that we gained understanding long after the lesson concluded, kicking ourselves for not having realized something sooner. In the mountains, the lessons can come quickly and viciously, or they can be drawn out and subtle. Like the child being yelled at by their pushy parent, there are some situations that just don’t encourage learning. Fostering a culture of wonder and humility helps to ensure that every day,every moment, you and your team are open to the opportunity to learn and share in your collective understanding. I hope as professionals we can remember that it’s not a checklist that we are looking to bang off every day. It’s not a law that you’ve got to follow to the T. It’s a dance, a mindset. The mountains are dynamic and changing every single day. You’ve got to be fluid and you’ve got to allow yourself some space to change with them. It is a conversation not a command. I’m thankful for everyone I worked with at Ohau who helped me with these understandings: Craig, Mike, Tom, Kate, Cam, Jake, Shane, and all the Polytechs. I’ll be back and I’ll have to remind myself of these lessons everyday. I’ll rely on my team to keep me in check and to keep us all safe and having fun. In the meantime, have a flat white and ski a lap for me.
Humility Humility might be the most important trait to cultivate in the mountains and in life. I’m reminded of this fact more often than anything else. When you’re not being humble to the mountains, to your abilities, to the conditions, that’s when things are going to go pear shaped, and you’ll end up getting hurt. The photo below is from one of the most reliable pieces of snow at Ohau and also the most fatal. This particular slide was interesting as it was during this cycle that our early season faceted snow began to fail after a series of strong northwest winds built slabs up to two meters on our upper elevation slopes. What I’ll always remember about this event, more than the failure of the snowpack, is that just the day prior one of my patrollers was bouncing along the start zone attempting to ski cut some loose dry and soft slab instabilities. A close call? A mistake on my end to send him out there without explosives or to allow that behavior? Maybe, but that’s not what stands out to me. It sits like a piece of lead in my stomach to think how close Jake might have been to kicking off this piece of snow with his skis. Even though it turned out alright, I can’t help but wonder if I did enough to encourage Jake to be careful. There are some practical takeaways here that I don’t think need to be spoken in order to be understood, but if there’s one lesson I’ve taken away from that particular cycle it’s this: be humble. The amount might shift and change but you’ve always got to give yourself a margin of error because you don’t know when the scales are going to tip and you don’t want to be on the wrong side when they do.
If there is a secret silver bullet to a safe and efficient avalanche program then being diligent and not letting your guard down is it. You get up early and you cover your bases. When it snows or blows you get out there and you do your job. Last season was a bit of an obnoxious procession of 5-10cm storms accompanied by strong winds not sufficient to create dangerous avalanche conditions, but giving reason to go out hunting for isolated wind slabs. The slide in this photo (below) was something of an outlier: a small slide that quickly stepped down into a layer of preserved facets from several storms prior. We were tracking this layer, but hadn’t been hunting it. I’d been too busy lamenting the poor skiing conditions and congratulating myself for installing a remote weather station on the hill. Veteran Ohau ski patroller Kate Young found this piece and pried it out with old fashioned due diligence. Even after dozens of shots that failed to produce anything so much as a crack in the snow, Kate remained astute to the conditions at hand and hung a shot into the Back Bowl. While the resulting crown offered ample learning for myself and the rest of the crew, the takeaway for me, again, wasn’t related to loading, failure, or any sort of avalanche mechanics but just to remember that you’ve got a job to do. You’ve got to run your routes when the conditions require it. You don’t want to find out after the fact that you missed the day when the weak layer, buried two meters deep, finally decides to wake up. Don’t let your guard down, be diligent.
We try to peek into the snowpack, understand the weather and ultimately how avalanches work. The forces we are working amongst are vast. We keep our minds open, our eyes clear and occasionally we witness something that reveals one small part of the hidden workings of the mountains. If you’re in the right frame of mind you are curious and cultivate a sense of wonder. The slide in the photo below was something of a surprise that highlights the curiosity I am talking about. Once again we were out on routes on a day that had no indication of being anything remarkable. Patroller Jake Manson was checking the final box of the morning with a shot in the starting zone of Second Peak, a regular shot on our routes yet a path I’d never seen slide with any significance. This slide wasn’t necessarily an exception since it wasn’t exactly large or destructive but it was an anomaly because it resulted from a shot that was placed well over 100 metres away. After strong winds scoured away a crust with accompanying facets on nearly every aspect across the mountain, I was relatively certain we wouldn’t see any more activity from this facet layer. Inspecting the crownline later that day it was obvious that the rocks mid-path prevented the wind from reaching that particular area of the slope and the crust facet sandwich was preserved in that location. You can just make out the powder burn from the shot on the far left of the image. This shot translated across the slope triggering this piece of snow that none of the ski patrollers had seen avalanche in their years on the hill. “Every day is a school day.”, as our old groomer Jock used to like to say. If you keep your mouth shut and your eyes open, you’ll often be rewarded with a glimpse into the inner workings of this world that we are only briefly visiting.
It wouldn’t be correct if I didn’t acknowledge the role of patience as a crucial contributor to the safety and thoroughness of any avalanche program. I’m generally an impulsive, sometimes manic, and oftentimes aggressive person. That said: many of the injuries and accidents I’ve been a part of over the years occurred amongst a rushed atmosphere. I’ve made all the right mistakes: not calling an early morning and spending half the day getting slapped around playing catchup, bending to the will of management who are pushing for an expedited opening amongst an unknown avalanche problem, not speaking up when things are obviously starting to get out of hand. Things happen fast on a ski hill and you are expected to react quickly, but remember that when you let something slide past without spending the time to investigate it thoroughly is exactly when you’re going to get bit. The crownline in this photo is from one such event on the opening day of the 2018 ski season at Ohau. After a late start and after dealing with an explosives malfunction, we decided to cut our losses, reasoned with ourselves and decided to open the terrain without properly testing the slope as we had planned to do. I can still feel the anxiety of sitting helplessly on the ski lift receiving word that a member of the public had just triggered an avalanche and the sickening wave of relief when I knew no one was hurt. Give yourself the time and space to feel confident about every slope you ski, every slope you open and every risk you take.
While I’m sitting here stateside waxing poetic about humility and curiosity, more than anything I miss is ripping fast turns down an untracked face. I miss trying to stand in wind so strong it feels like the snot is getting sucked out of my face and I miss being on routes and trying to make an avalanche with my skis. For me, this is what it’s all about. We’re in this life for fun. We might not want to acknowledge it but we’re in it for the thrill. We like to think we are composed and professional but when your shot goes off and the slope releases with the power of a train wreck there’s little you can do but holler into the wind. When the routes are over and it’s time to ski down, even when the snow is grabbing your tips and you’re feeling like a beater, you can’t help but smile. You have got to operate within some sort of framework that keeps you safe. This is where humility and diligence come in but if the element of risk doesn’t exist then it’s easy to burn out and lose track of what you’re actually in it for. After all, we are professionals and it’s not just our job to get out there first and make things safe, it’s our privilege. I strongly believe that encouraging your team to own their abilities and exercise their expertise keeps them invested in the success of the program. You’ve got to know when it’s okay to lay it out and the only way to figure that out is by laying it out and learning to trust yourself and your team.
The Kemano Project
By Greg Johnson
6 Point Engineering
The Kemano Avalanche Project By Greg Johnson with an NZAD follow-up Interview Multiple large avalanche paths threaten ongoing tunnel construction works in the heart of Canada’s Coast Mountain Range in British Columbia. The area receives some of the heaviest snowfalls in North America. 6 Point Engineering was selected to provide avalanche planning, RACS design, defence structure design and avalanche control services for the delivery of the Kemano Second Tunnel Project (T2 Project) which will ensure long term reliability of power from the Kemano Powerhouse, powering Rio Tinto’s British Columbia Works aluminium smelter in Kitimat, BC. The T2 Project includes completing a 7.6 km section of tunnel with a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). Construction of the T2 Tunnel and supporting operations are staged from Horetzky Landing, situated at the head of a steep mountain valley northeast of Kemano. The Horetzky Landing is accessible via an 11 km long access road ascending the valley. Horetzky Landing supports the primary admit for the TBM and is host to a workers’ camp, offices, concrete batch plant, TBM maintenance shed, wastewater treatment facility, and multiple equipment lay-down areas. Approximately forty high-risk avalanche paths threaten the Horetzky Road and a portion of the Horetzky Landing. A path known as the “Horetzky Path” directly affects Horetzky Landing and can produce very large avalanches that have the potential to impact infrastructure across the landing. To maintain the current T2 Tunnel construction schedule, project specifications stipulate to minimize avalanche closure times at Horetzky Landing and the T2 Tunnel admit should remain operational throughout the winter even if the Horetzky Landing is impacted by a large avalanche event.
The Kemano Project’s risk management approach is to implement a comprehensive avalanche mitigation program through: a worker training program, and an active forecasting and control program to be supported by the
installation of three weather stations, eleven gas RACS (Remote Avalanche Control Systems) Gazex®/Gazflex®, and multiple passive defence structures. The defence structures consist of a 10 m high avalanche deflection berm and a 9 m high stopping wall. The avalanche control program requires nine avalanche technicians that continuously make avalanche, snowpack and weather observations, perform avalanche control and coordinate incident response from late October to May each year. The Gazex® system, developed by the French company MND Group (formerly TAS-MND) was designed to help reduce the avalanche risk to infrastructure, workers and avalanche technicians as well as minimize project closures. The Gazex® system consists of seven 1.5m3 Gazflex® exploders and four 3m3 Gazex® Inertia exploders. Five gas control shelters supply oxygen and propane to the exploders. The associated gas supply pipelines running from the tanks to the exploders range from 50 m up to 400 m in length . Some pipeline sections are run down near vertical rock faces for over 150 m. Due to the areas heavy
Map showing the Kemano region where the Kemano Second Tunnel project and avalanche programme are located. NZAD 55
Aerial photo showing the Kemano Valley and the Horetzky Landing location.
snowfall the system was designed for each exploder to have gas capacity for a minimum of sixty shots each per winter. The capacity for the entire system totals 660 shots. In general, the exploders are not accessible during winter due to the very steep terrain and associated avalanche risk.
What has been the biggest challenge(s) of the project?
Avalanche control is also performed by deploying 12.5 kg and 25 kg bags of ANFO from a helicopter to control areas along the Horetzky Road. Each winter 6 Point avalanche technicians use between 400 and 800 ANFO shots to perform avalanche control.
For us, the biggest challenge of the project is the primary entrance to the second tunnel which is located in a very large avalanche path near the head of a large coastal mountain valley. The admitâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s access road is exposed to about 40 paths. To help protect the admit and worksite we designed a Gazex system with eleven exploders to provide 24/7 control capability and designed a large avalanche stopping wall and diversion berm.
The NZAD followed up with a few questions for Greg Johnson:
NZAD: Anything surprisingly easy? Not really.
How long has the Kemano project been going on for? Completion date?
Do the avalanche technicians live onsite or commute to site?
Plans for a second hydro tunnel in Kemano have been in the works since the 1950s. In the late 1980s half of the second tunnel was completed. At that time the avalanche control program was lead by Alan Dennis. He spent the North American winter in Kemano and then headed to Milford Sound for an endless winter. In 2016 we got involved in the planning stages to complete the final 7600m of the second tunnel and have been working with the project since.
All avalanche technicians stay on site and work a two week on two week off schedule.
Who makes up your avalanche technicians team? We were lucky to be able to hire some highly talented people for this project. Our team consists of experienced avalanche technicians with diverse backgrounds with ski patrolling and guiding backgrounds. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got a solid team
The principle of the fixed Gazex® system developed used in Kemano consists of remotely controlling the explosion of an oxygen-propane gas mixture into a tube to trigger an avalanche. The installation is put into service before the winter and then remains operational 24 hours a day seven days a week, whatever the weather conditions, for the whole season without any human intervention needed on site.
How are field observations made? We use a helicopter and ski tour to make avalanche, snowpack and weather observations. What types of automatic weather stations do you employ? We have three remote telemetry weather stations and we receive temperature observations from 5 Gazex® control shelters. What does an average day look like on the Avy program at Kemano?
As the pioneer of non-explosive, preventive gas Remote Avalanche Control Systems (RACS) along with its patented products Gazex®, O'BellX® and DaisyBell®, the French-based company MND SAFETY (formerly TAS-MND Group) has established itself as the world leader in RACS technology. For more than thirty years MND SAFETY has designed and installed more than 2,800 RACS systems worldwide.
we all know, learning the quirky personalities of individual paths takes many years. What is the future for the avy program at Kemano? When the second tunnel in Kemano is completed, the Project will close and there will no longer be a need for an avalanche control program. What is 6 Point Engineering? When was it created? 6 Point Engineering is an avalanche consulting and control firm that started in 2014. What is your role at 6 Point Engineering?
An average day consists of the lead forecaster disseminating an avalanche forecast by 5:00 am. A morning meeting with all the avalanche technicians starts at 6:00 am. Once the meeting is complete we are either performing avalanche control, road patrols, snowpack observations or doing general day to day tasks. Night shifts occur regularly, when conditions warrant. Often control with Gazex® is required during the night shift.
I own 6 Point Engineering and have the wonderful opportunity to work with an amazing group of people. What did you do before starting 6 Point Engineering?
What about a not so average day? Any surprises, learnings etc?
I got my formal start in the avalanche business as a graduate student working under Dr. Bruce Jamieson. Since then I’ve worked a mix of public avalanche forecasting, mountain rescue, guiding, teaching and engineering consulting work. Its been a lot of fun.
There are going to be some big learning moments and surprises for any avalanche control program starting up. As
What other projects has 6 Point undertaken? Anything of this scope/scale? NZAD 57
A large powder cloud engulfs part of the Kemano access road.
Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve done a number of other projects both summer and winter, but nothing that matches the scale of the Kemano Project. Personally, I find summers just as interesting as winter work. We do a fair amount of remote avalanche control system layout and foundation design, avalanche zoning, avalanche detection system layout, helicopter landing pad designs and recently getting into Via Ferratas. How has Covid 19 affected the project or your business? Do you foresee more difficulties with C19 in the future? In North America, Covid 19 has changed all avalanche consulting, ski areas, heli-ski, cat-skiing and ski touring businesses. The future remains very uncertain for everybody. For us, we saw a slow down immediately in A Gaz-Ex Inertia Exploder emplacement .
March 2020 with projects either delaying or being cancelled. Through this summer, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got enough going on to keep payroll going and the lights on.Â In the short term, I think a huge challenge C19 imposes is when cold and flu season return in November. Anyone with a symptom for anything will be required to self isolate for 14 days. From an operations standpoint maintaining adequate staffing is going to be a challenge. In the very big picture I think C19 is going to change our approach to communicable diseases and for the better. For example at 6 Point, everybody will have their own helicopter headset.
Adapting the Strategic Mindset By Ryan Leong In 2014 Roger Atkins presented his paper titled “Yin Yang and You” at the Banff ISSW. In this paper he shed light on his concept of the strategic mindset which has since become a staple for morning meetings in various snow safety operations around the world. In 2017 the NZ avalanche industry was fortunate to have him as a keynote speaker at the Southern Hemisphere Avalanche Conference in Christchurch. At this we got a first hand presentation from him about how and why he developed this concept and the benefits of using it in an operation. Since then it has been absorbed into the NZ industry and now it is fairly normal to hear people throwing around terms like“status quo”, “assessment”, and “stepping out” when deciding how they or their team should be operating for the day (see table one). There is even a strategic mindset box on the MSC daily Hazard Analysis form on the InfoEx, which most operations are now using as their daily hazard rating system. Safe to say it’s now well engrained in NZ, which is a great thing. As with any system, it really helps to have everyone in your team understand how it works, rather than just doing it and going through the motions. You might be able to do an extended column test with your eyes closed, but if you don’t know why you’re doing it, or how to interpret the information you don’t really get much out of it. Likewise if someone just tells you that today’s mindset is 'Stepping Out', but you don’t know what that means, or you know what it is but don’t know how to apply it then you also probably aren’t going to get much out of it. Atkins' ‘Yin Yang and You’ paper is written very well, is easy to read and makes perfect sense so I won’t go into detail on that other than a quick overview of how the concept works. The basic idea is that we are always going to make decisions which are pushed towards our biases. For example, if you have a bias for skiing steep and deep snow, then you are always going to push towards skiing the steepest, deepest line that you think will be safe enough in the conditions; the upper end of your risk tolerance. You might make a decision to back off a steeper and deeper line, and stay safe, but you will probably be chewing yourself up inside wishing you could ski the one you turned away from. This is hard work, and not really the best conditions for sound decision making. Check out the link to read the full paper:
Atkins came up with the idea that we need to increase our range of desires so we have a selection to choose from. Then we choose the desires which suit the conditions, and our newly adjusted biases will push our decisions in the right direction. For example your range of desires for a day of ski touring may be: steep powder lines, cruising mellow terrain, physical exercise, practicing snowpack observations and profiles, a good social day out with friends, or simply escaping the drudgery of your everyday life and just enjoying being in the mountains away from Facebook. If the conditions are low hazard, 30cm of light, dry snow and you could roll a groomer down a slope and still not trigger an avalanche, then choosing steep powder lines as your desire for the day would be pretty well suited to those conditions. Conversely, if it’s a high hazard day with natural and human triggered avalanches everywhere, then choosing steep powder skiing for your desire is probably not the best choice and will push your decisions towards the dodgy end of the spectrum. Maybe choosing practicing snowpack observations might be a better goal to have in mind which would push you more towards choosing safe, representative slopes where you can spend hours looking at crystals, slapping the back of your shovel and still having a rewarding day that you come home safe from. If we choose our mindset by having a range of desires and choosing the right ones for the current conditions, it will be easier to make better decisions by embracing the positive side of our biases. Using this in an operational setting helps by getting the whole team on board with the same mindset, which brings everyone on the same page with a much better awareness of how everyone is expected to behave with respect to the conditions. Atkins developed his list of mindsets for use in the heli-ski industry. Therefor these mindsets are very well suited to the guiding context. His list of seven mindsets have more or less become the standard in the avalanche industry. That said, not all avalanche operations share the same context as heli-ski guiding. Where I work at Whakapapa Ski Area on Mt Ruapehu, it’s a very different scene to Canadian heli-skiing (I wish I skied knee deep powder day in day out, but that’s not the reality!). Some of the key differences, which lead to different operational mindsets are:
www.arc.lib.montana.edu/snowscience/objects/ISSW1 4_paper_O9.02.pdf NZAD 59
Table 1: Strategic Mindsets
From Yin Yang and You, Courtesy Roger Atkins
Get it Done: A windslab problem easily identified by the texture of the snow surface. We had a good amount of info on this problem, knew where it was, knew how it was going to react, the weather and travel conditions were easy going, and there was a steady stream of cars coming up the road for a busy Saturday. Perfect conditions to adopt the "Lets Get This Done" mindset.
Like all ski areas, the avalanche hazard is either mitigated to an acceptable level, or the terrain is closed. We can’t manage our customers through avalanche terrain during periods of elevated hazard and avoid the hot spots, like a heli ski group can. It would be nice to be able to tell 5000 people to spoon their tracks and stay within 10 meters either side of my line, but that’s not that practical. Basically it’s either good for everyone to smash wherever they want, or it’s closed for further mitigation. Most of our avalanche hazard is short-lived wind slab cycles as opposed to persistent weaknesses. When the hazard increases it’s usually a morning of control work and then we are back to a low hazard because the snow has either been tested and is not moving, or is now all sitting in our runout zones. All terrain is open and good to go relatively quickly as opposed to having to work our way through the terrain over an extended period of weeks to months to get open. Most ski areas in the Canadian Rockies have to continually beat persistent weak layers with as many different sticks as possible until they can finally call the snow over top a bridging mid pack, instead of a slab.
Full Alert: Crossing the debris of a size 3 explosive triggered avalanche mid storm cycle. This was our first piece of testing and snowpack information for a few days due to challenging weather and access conditions. Poor visibility, a high hazard, tricky travel conditions and lots of uncertainty due to limited info meant we used the "Full Alert" mindset on this day
We operate in hazardous avalanche conditions for intense, generally short bursts of time and then it’s back to normal rather than always being in the firing line. That’s one of the benefits of having explosives at your disposal and a manager above you who is happy to deal with the budget side of things with the powers that be.
So with those differences in mind, the mindsets in Atkins' paper aren’t that well suited to our operation. Kind of like trying to fit a round peg (an extremely well thought out and beautifully crafted round peg) into a square hole. A few years back we took his concept of the strategic mindset and adapted it to develop our own mindsets suited to performing avalanche control work at Whakapapa (see Table 2). You will notice that in the mindset table (table 1) there is an additional column titled ‘desires’. This has been included to ensure that we all have the same goals in mind - to help prime the mindset, instead of just simply saying what we should be doing.
Table 2: Strategic Mindsets for Whakapapa Control Work Mindset
Typical Control Team Behaviour
Low operational pressure
Assistant makes decisions on control route. Time can be taken to gather evidence/info/feedback to support these decisions on the route. The leader will still ultimately oversee safety, but only step in where necessary.
Lets Get This Done
High operational pressure High confidence in hazard analysis
Low confidence High hazard High uncertainty Poor weather Difficult travel conditions Very little room for error
High uncertainty in hazard Limited information
Safety and thoroughness is always paramount, but with an emphasis on speed and efficiency. Leader should dictate exactly what is needed of the assistant and use them to get through the route as fast as possible. Not the time for stopping and explaining every decision unless absolutely necessary.
Control team on high alert and maintain sharp awareness of the hazard and conditions. Clear, concise comms are vital, so each team member knows what the plan is and what is expected. Decisions are explained so control team members are on the same page. More info needs to be gathered as team moves through the route (snpk obs, test shots etc). All info relayed to the forecaster so they can refine the model. Travel conservatively in regards to the avalanche problem, but aim to move as efficiently as possible
We have found this to be a really useful tool for control work. There is a time and a place to go slow and train people up in control work, and a time and a place to just crack it out. Previously this has led to some confusion and people feeling rushed, or like they weren’t being given the chance to develop their skills on control routes - because they were not aware of the mindset of the forecaster, or control route leader. Choosing and communicating a mindset for control work has helped clear this up, as now the team knows what the goals (or desires) are and what is expected. People are on the same page when doing control routes which has helped our efficiency as a team. These mindsets are specifically for use while doing control work, not for regular day to day patrol work, so they only get used when the hazard is up and we are using explosives or ski cutting. However, there is scope for other mindsets to be developed for other aspects of the job, such as on busy days with lots of first aid work, or even everyone’s favourite patrol job - digging out tower pads.
Example Job: Tower Pads Desires to chose from: Get the bloody thing dug out; practice at strategic shoveling; arm exercise so I can climb a grade 12 without falling this summer; talking crap with a NZAD 62
Desires Training for route leading Decision making practice Terrain / route familiarity
Practice at moving efficiently Get the ski area open
Practice at safe travel Practice at clear comms in challenging conditions
Quick info gathering On route assessments
workmate and having a good catch up. Conditions: Tower pad is entombed in dense hard snow to half height, skiing is crap, nice mild day, quiet day on the hill with not much work to be done Selection for the conditions: Talking crap with a workmate. As you can see by this example it can take a pretty average job, and turn it around into a positive experience in which you will be naturally pushed towards making good decisions for the conditions. Maybe that’s being a little optimistic in this case, but you get the point. The new addition of the strategic mindset box to the InfoEx hazard analysis function this year has it as a blank box instead of a drop down menu with pre-populated mindsets. One of the reasons it was left this way was so that operations could be free to come up with their own mindsets. There will be many operations which Atkins’ mindsets will work well for, but it’s worth having a look with some fresh eyes to see if you can tweak them for your specific scene. You might find that you get more out of it by doing this.
EDUCATION & TRAINING
63 Mads Naera-Spiers - The Forecast Funnel 65 David Lundin - Tai Poutini Ski Patrol Training 67 Dr. M. Zachau - Avalanche Patients
The Forecaster Funnel How to Structure Your Thinking in a World of Confusing Information By Mad Naera-Spiers MetService Severe Weather Forecaster As a weather forecaster, making sense of information and data is becoming increasingly crucial. Working to tight deadlines has always meant that time pressures were considerable but just like the rest of the world we are getting busier and the available information is increasing rapidly. Therefore, ordered thinking and workflow is essential. Each morning at the MetService you have access to several global weather models giving you 3-hourly data for the next 10 days, and 10 or more high resolution local models with hourly data for 84 hours. Add to that hundreds of weather stations providing observations every minute, as well as satellite and radar imagery...and that’s just the start.
very often underestimate this. So, if a model says bluebird all week, then snow during the weekend, there is a good chance that the snow could be delayed by at least one day. The Synoptic Scale Next is the Synoptic Scale. These are the highs (H) and lows (L) that you see on weather maps:
If you just ‘jump in’ and start sifting through all of this you will soon have lots of confusing information floating around inside your head, but won’t know much. A structured approach is crucial. In forecasting the technique used is known as the Forecast Funnel (see below). It is a simple way of gaining valuable time and understanding by spending a little time on the big picture first.
This is a hand-drawn analysis, but with computer models we can animate the main features more than a week into the future. In the above, we see a strong high to the east, while a mild N to NE flow covers the Tasman Sea and much of New Zealand. The high has been very stubborn to move so the overall Synoptic Situation is only likely to change slowly. Which is bad news for those of us waiting for snow.
The Hemispheric Scale The Hemispheric Scale covers locations of the polar and subtropical jet streams, and of hemispheric highs and troughs. As the funnel graphic shows, you only briefly study this but learn a lot. For instance: if a hemispheric ridge of high pressure lies across the NZ region, fronts will have a hard time moving onto the country and model forecasts NZAD 64
At this step the task is to identify the important features to follow and to get a good idea of the timing. Very important as well is comparing the different models. By seeing how different they can be - even on days 2 and 3 - it's a good reminder that they aren’t fool-proof and that you can’t put all of your faith in one model. The surface flow is only one aspect. Now is alsothe time to look at upper levels of the atmosphere, from 1km all the way to the tropopause, at roughly 10km altitude. It is crucial to see what the flow is like aloft, whether it’s stable or unstable, how much moisture there is and where it is located.
By now the forecaster should have a good idea of the general state of the atmosphere and how it’s likely to change in the near future. Because you have taken the time to familiarise yourself with the big picture you won’t have to frequently go back and check your model guidance - it’s all stored in your short-term memory. Now it’s time to delve into the details.
Another thing to check is whether the atmosphere is saturated through the Dendritic Layer (-12 to -18C), as that’s where proper snowflakes are produced. More shallow moisture is likely to produce only tiny ice crystals or even just rime. Model soundings (see below) will reveal the temperature and moisture content through the atmosphere.
Once you’re at the narrow end of the funnel you spend more time going through data and “nutting out” your forecast. If you have taken the methodical steps outlined you will have several advantages:
The MesoScale deals with fronts and troughs, sea breezes, squall lines, large clusters of thunderstorms, etc. How they interact with the complex topography of New Zealand is where computer models can easily fail. Only careful analysis and long experience will win the day. At this stage in your analysis you not only focus on a finer scale but also go into more detail. Armed with your knowledge of the Synoptic Situation it is now possible to focus on today’s ‘Weather Problems’. For snow forecasting purposes we look at what areas are likely to see precipitation and whether it will be cold enough to snow. How high is the freezing level? Will there be significant precipitation while the freezing level is sufficiently low? Often a front will bring warm northwesterly rain, but the colder SW flow will be too dry to produce much new snow. However, if heavy rain falls for long enough it can actually lower the freezing level due to evaporation. How much? More fine details to study.
You know that your work and thinking has a solid base. You can disregard a huge amount of data/info as not important for your forecast. The applicable data can be structured for even faster and more thorough analysis. That is, not only do you have less work to do, you can do it quicker and better. The cost? Being disciplined and taking the necessary time to study the big picture first. Not always easy, but worth it. Finally, as you may have guessed, this approach is by no means limited to weather forecasting - it applies to many of the tasks we do. Unfortunately, information overload and automation have conditioned us to seek a quick, easy result – often with the opposite outcome.
Model soundings: A graphical presentation of one or more meteorological variables with respect to time, whether observed or forecast, for a particular location. Where forecast data is used, the meteogram will typically be generated directly from a weather forecasting model based on the longitude, latitude and el evation of the location, but it can also be corrected by a meteorologist.
The Tai Poutini Ski Patrol Training Programme By David Lundin If you have had an interaction with a Ski Patrol in New Zealand, then chances are you have spoken to a graduate of the Tai Poutini Polytechnic Ski Patrol program. Tai Poutini is a West Coast-based institute (Greymouth) that runs the NZ Certificate in Snow Sports Patrol (level 4), which includes the NZ Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (Level 5). This program is based in Wanaka. From humble beginnings over 20 years ago at Ohau, the programme relocated to Wanaka and has continued to produce high level graduates into the local and international outdoor industry. If you want to know first-hand about the program, you’ll find graduates working in most ski patrol departments throughout New Zealand. The content of the program is as wide as it is deep. We cover topics such as first aid, chairlift evacuation, toboggan running, ski touring (terrain and group management) and avalanche risk management. The cherry on top for most of the students is the six-week work placement where they are placed into a ski patrol department at ski areas around the country. This is a chance to put into practice the skills they have learnt over the months of training and assessment, while getting a foot in the door for a job. Over the years, course tutors have included mountain and ski guides, ex-ski patrollers and snow safety professionals.
The experience, backgrounds and industry connection of these individuals, plus the support of the ski areas, the ski patrol teams and the positive energy of the students, is why the program continues to produce quality graduates. One of the benefits of being based in Wanaka is the proximity to four ski resorts that we are able to utilise. We also have great options for ski touring and a wide range of casual tutors to call on from the ski patrol and guiding industry. We try to get as many different people to visit, meet and teach the students as possible. As many of you are well aware, in the world of avalanche study and practice there are some black and white rules for how things are done, but in general we operate in the grey area. We do our best to expose the students to as many industry professionals as possible, so they can start to see that everyone has their own thoughts and systems to make safe and informed decisions while operating in avalanche terrain. One of the challenges of working on the program is exposing the reality of what a ski patroller actually does. It would be fair to say that the general public think that ski patrollers tend to ski powder and not do much else. The stark reality for the students of this program is the level of professionalism, responsibility and work ethic that is expected.
There are a lot of hard skills that a junior ski patroller needs to learn, including avalanche rescue, first aid, rope rescue and hazard management. These skills can be taught with relative ease and get cemented with practice and mileage. The soft skills, however, are the attributes that will get graduates a job in the industry. Being a team player, being trustworthy, having good communication skills and a strong work ethic, the ability to self-reflect and display situational awareness tend to be more valued skills, yet are extremely hard to teach. The first portion of the program (March to June) is spent in the lowlands of Wanaka, introducing the students to first aid, meteorology, chairlift evacuation, explosives construction and avalanche rescue. From June we relocate to a more appropriate environment and start putting the theory into practice. A normal week sees students use Monday (without tutor contact) to complete prescribed activities and work on the areas where they might need to close some gaps. From Tuesday to Friday we start at 7.30am with a general weather, snowpack and avalanche decision, then head to either Cardrona or Treble Cone to work on anything from terrain and group management to first aid skills. Most days we finish in town at 5pm, with a general wrap up of the activities and learnings from the day. If you are a mature, self-aware and independent person then this program is for you. More so than ever, this winter has highlighted the need for qualified Kiwis to keep our ski resorts open. The rewards are so much more than money lifelong friendships, a dynamic work environment where no day is ever the same, alongside a role with a high degree of professionalism and responsibility.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE TAI POUTINI SKI PATROL TRAINING PROGRAM:
NZ Avalanche Patient Resuscitation Doomed to Fail? or Room for Improvement? Dr. Malin Zachau In 2015 I was volunteering with a Pre-Hospital Emergency Care (PHEC) provider as their curriculum advisor. We were asked by Don Bogie, from the Department of Conservation, to incorporate the International Committee for Alpine Rescue (ICAR) avalanche patient resuscitation checklist into the PHEC courses for snow industry workers. As part of that project I wanted to find out what the “Survival Curve” (cite the curve here) looks like here in New Zealand as compared to overseas. The starting point for that work was to find out what the cause of death actually was for each of the decedents. The Coronial Information Office kindly allowed me access to their detailed data which made it possible to analyse twenty-six New Zealand avalanche deaths between 2000 and 2018.
Avalanche Survival Curve
either the bodies were never found, or they did not have post mortems completed. For snow sports (snowboarders, skiers and guided/heliskiers) the causes of death were as follows: trauma 20%, asphyxia 60% and hypothermia 20%. Sadly, much of the New Zealand data is statistically weak due to low incident numbers. In some cases, the accident data is simply incomplete as each District Health Board records different types of data. Nevertheless, after my analysis I offered the following suggestions: More effort should be put into understanding the reasons why climbers are disproportionately affected by avalanches in New Zealand. Analysing the decision making of climbers in New Zealand would likely be more productive than simply advising them to carry transceivers and rescue equipment, which will not mitigate against them getting caught in an avalanche in the first place. Climbers could facilitate their own recovery by carrying transceivers. In less steep terrain, which is where the asphyxiation deaths occurred, transceivers could potentially facilitate successful outcomes by companion rescue.
The Survival Curve is a visual representation of the chance of survival for a fully buried avalanche patient depending upon how long they are buried. It basically shows that a companion rescuer has only ten to fifteen minutes to save their companion from death from asphyxiation. It's shape depends upon the proportion of trauma causing immediate death, a number of snowpack variables, and rescuer(s) capabilities.
The main findings regarding the twenty-six fatalities for the 2000 to 2018 period included: Climbers make up 65% of the avalanche fatalities in New Zealand. In 52% of the climber fatalities, the primary cause of death was trauma. For another 17% the primary cause of death was asphyxia. For the remaining 31%
Just finding someone who has been buried by an avalanche is not enough. Significant gains could be made if potential companion rescuers are very able to carry out Basic Life Support (BLS) techniques to manage avalanche patients. For example: opening a positionally obstructed airway, clearing any snow or ice from the nose and/or mouth and giving effective mouth to mouth ventilations as part of high qualityhigh-quality CPR. An understanding that resuscitation of the buried patient is different to those with a primary cardiac problem (most first aid training is understandably aimed at ‘heart attack’ victims). Heart attacks are generally an “electrical” problem in the heart, and thus often responds well to early defibrillation which “reboots” the electrical activity. Avalanche burial cardiac arrests occur due to suffocation. Unlike a traditional “heart attack” providing “rescue breaths” and ventilations (air/oxygen) is critical to getting the heart restarted.
Hard at it with a patient extrication (above) but once they are extracted (right) do you know what to do?
We need a greater awareness in the New Zealand outdoor community of the potentially good outcomes for some avalanche victims. Those without instantly fatal trauma and whose burial was for long enough to become hypothermic (with a clear airway) have good evidence of neurologically intact survival. A companion in an avalanche may not become fully buried but may sustain survivable multi-trauma. You need to be prepared to manage that by:by stopping any bleeding, applying a pelvic binder or other immobilisation if appropriate and taking steps to prevent trauma induced hypothermia.
Quiz Time! Here are some scenarios to test out your current BLS and avalanche victim response knowledge:
Scenario 1 You have been out on a day of ski touring in familiar terrain with your partner. After a couple of runs in low angled terrain you both decide to try a steeper line nearby. Your partner drops in first and on the second turn triggers a size 2 wind slab avalanche. You watch your partner as they travel downhill until they ultimately disappear from view having been fully engulfed in avalanche debris. You initiate a search with your transceiver and eventually find them with your probe and dig them from the debris:
1) Your companion has been completely buried. It took you 17 minutes to find them and to dig them out. They show no signs of unsurvivable injuries. In avalanche rescue terms those types of unsurvivable injuries include: a) Decapitation. b) Transection of thorax. c) Bilateral amputations of legs. d) Large amounts of exposed brain matter. e)Thorax and/or abdomen frozen so that CPR compressions cause no chest movement. f) Decomposition. g) All of the above. 2) Your companion in the question above shows no signs of life. In avalanche rescue what are the signs of life for non-medically trained rescuers? a) Talking/ responding. b) Pulse. c) Moving. d) Breathing. e) All of the above. 3) Your companion in the question above has no obvious signs of death and no obvious signs of life. NZAD 69
According to the Survival Curve what might their chances of survival be?
Are you a companion rescuer that folks would want to ski, ride or climb with?
a) About 50% b) About 10% c) About 90% d) About 0%
Things to Consider in an Avalanche Rescue
4) Your companion in the question above has no snow or ice in their mouth or nose. What are your next actions? a) Immediately start CPR compressions with ventilations at a rate of 30:2. b) Give 5 mouth to mouth / bag & mask rescue breaths, then CPR (30:2) compressions with ventilations. c) 17 minutes is too long to survive being buried, take no action.
Scenario 2 You have been skiing at your local ski field when there is a callout for an avalanche emergency in a popular backcountry area nearby. You are made part of an organized rescue group, transferred to the scene and eventually assist in digging out a patient who has been fully buried for 90 minutes. The patient shows no signs of unsurvivable injuries and does not have any snow or ice in their mouth or nose. 5) What are your next actions and why? a) A ninety minute burial cannot be survived. Take no action. b) Start CPR with ventilations ( 30:2) for 30 minutes. Stop if no return of spontaneous circulation. c) Start CPR with ventilations (30:2) until they are rewarmed in hospital. 6) Same scenario, but this time the patient has snow packed in their mouth and nose. What are your actions and why? a) A ninety-minute burial cannot be survived if the airway is blocked. Take no action. b) Start CPR ( 30:;2) for 30 minutes. Stop if no return of spontaneous circulation. c) Start CPR ( 30:2) until they are rewarmed in hospital. Quiz Answers: (1) a,b,d,e,f (2) a,c,d (3) b (4) a is OK, b is even better, c is incorrect (5) c (6) a
How did you do? NZAD 70
If you find yourself in the difficult situation of having to respond to an avalanche - either because you were out with a friend or friends who got caught or because it is your professional duty - the situation can often be very overwhelming and chaotic. Adrenaline kicks in but that can actually make thinking with a clear head impossible and cognitive functions can be significantly reduced including your working memory, fine motor skills, and auditory exclusion (selective hearing). A stressed person may also experience tunnel vision and an altered perception of time. [Editor: For more on this topic see “Left of Woomph” in the June Issue of the NZAD]. A few ways of improving your positive response during an avalanche rescue are: Checklists This is where cognitive aids or checklists like the ICAR (see Link 1 at the end of this article) can be a big help but only if you are familiar with them by having practiced with them in advance. Practice Practice Practice! “Emergency Reflex Action Drills” are what you perform when you repeatedly practice transceiver searches, probing techniques and strategic conveyor belt shovelling. It is thought that one has to repeatedly practice a skill between 60-100 times for it to become a muscle memory reflex. Consider Unknowns Statistically, your companion is likely to be buried prone (lying on their front) with their head pointing downhill. How confident would you be to perform CPR with ventilations in that positionwith the patient lying on their front if you haven’t practiced it beforehand? Stress-Proofing It is also worth knowing that Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) for a rescuer (which is becoming increasingly common) can be minimised by pre-incident training and practice. Feelings of helplessness can be reduced by having developed relevant skills and by being able to approach any worst caseworstcase scenario with a feeling of “I have trained for this, and I know what to do”.
Moving Forward in New Zealand To my knowledge the management of avalanche victims is not covered by any training qualification or by any training provider in New Zealand. I’ve recently conducted a survey on this topic. I will now start using those findings to engage with key industry bodies to hopefully bring about positive change. My motivation is that by raising the profile of this critical subject we can improve our outcomes in companion rescue in New Zealand. Let's make it happen!
Additional Resources For better explanations of the answers to the quiz check out these resources: https://youtu.be/iHvA5Q_IyaM A brilliant explanation of the ICAR checklist starting at the 31:51 mark. https://www.wemjournal.org/article/S10806032(16)30237-X/fulltext#secsect0145 This also has the ICAR algorithm in it and a great list of references. https://drmwildernessemc.wordpress.com/index-ofresearch-stuff/ This link is to the index of my personal website.
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A. Miller et. al, - The Mountain Research Centre Simon Morris - Avalanche Tarns Brad Carpenter - Double Trouble Haere Ra!
The Mountain Research Centre www.otago.ac.nz/surveying/potree/pub/mrc/
By Aubrey Miller with Nicolas Cullen, Todd Redpath and Pascal Sirguey The Mountain Research Centre (MRC), at the University of Otago, is an established research collaborative that we finally put a name to earlier this year. We realised we needed a platform to share the work we do with stakeholders and research collaborators. The centre is an avenue for us to ensure our research outputs and findings make their way beyond the world of academia and out into the community. The platform also allows us to hear from practitioners and policymakers on where they would like to see mountain research go in the future. All four of us have taken circuitous paths to reach our current positions at Otago—from engineering aircraft engines to managing recreationists—but our work now is primarily focused on measuring snow, ice and atmospheric processes with a variety of numerical and geo-spatial tools. We work in the School of Surveying and School of Geography at Otago with collaborators across the geosciences and beyond. The common thread that ties us together is our passion and interest in the mountains. Our ongoing research in falls into four primary research domains. Snow and Ice We monitor seasonal snow cover and distribution across New Zealand (NZ), measure the extent to which glaciers are changing and model what changes will look like in the future.
used to assess the atmospheric controls on local snow distribution and changes to glaciers. These long term observations are also complemented with intensive field campaigns. Natural Hazards We use geospatial tools, data and hazard models to asses risk and improve decision making. We have a focus on snow avalanches but we also work closely with partners on other natural hazards in alpine regions. Mountains and People We help characterise how people live and play in the mountains. This includes working with NZ Mountain Safety Council on exploring avalanche incident data and quantifying how people move through the hazardscape. Observations From the 2020 Season
Weather and Climate Change We make observations of the atmosphere to improve climate and snow modelling. We maintain several permanent weather stations in the Southern Alps that are
We thought we could provide a quick update on current snow observations in NZ, which relies on local (weather station) and national (satellite) observations we call SnOtago. NZAD 73
SnOtago Pisa Weather Station Telemetry We have recently installed telemetry on our weather station in the Pisa Range. Todd installed this weather station in 2016 for his PhD research on snow distribution in the Leopold Burn catchment. We also use this weather station for testing new technologies for weather observations, including lowcost internet-of-things connected sonar devices for measuring snow depth. While the snow depths we get in the Pisa range are modest, this weather station helps us to better understand local topographic drivers of snow distribution. We’ll be making the near-real time data from the weather station available on our website soon. Snow depth at the weather station over the past few seasons is depicted in Figure 1 below:
Figure 2: MODIS snow-covered area tool from SnOtago showing 2019 and 2020 winters. Black line is measured area. Blue is the mean with shaded areas as percentiles. Data current as of August 18 NZST[AM1] .
You can explore the data yourself by visiting the SnOtago site: www.otago.ac.nz/surveying/potree/pub/mrc/projects/s notago/modis-snow-cover Project Updates on NZ Avalanche Dispatch We will use this space in the New Zealand Avalanche Dispatch to provide some updates on our ongoing research that will be of interest to the avalanche community. Most of the projects discussed have visualisations you can access here: www.otago.ac.nz/surveying/potree/pub/mrc/projects Matariki
Figure 1: Winter snow depth in 2020 compared to the last three years (20172019). Peak accumulation typically occurs in late August and early September, with snow depth highly variable on the Pisa in May and June.
MODIS Snow-Covered Area We developed an automated approach to monitor the snowcovered area in New Zealand using the MODIS satellite sensor. This snow covered-area metric lets us see patterns over longer time periods (back to the year 2000) and over a large area (entire South Island), and which is updated daily. We can also track the snow-line elevation through time, which has implications for the kinds of snow water storage we will get through winter and into spring. What is happening this year? Despite some early snow in the second half of April and early May, it has, as you are undoubtedly aware, been a lean year for snow cover cross the South Island. The 20-year trend is for another peak in snow-covered area in late August. As this article is prepared (August 11), the snow-covered area is about 30% below average for this date, based on the period 2000-2020 Figure 2 below: NZAD 74
Last year we started our three year MBIE funded project on automating 3-D landscape change detection using satellite imagery. One of the project sites (Queenstown region) has already been imaged this year using the very high resolution Pleiades satellite. From the imagery we can build 3-D surface models. We will be imaging Queenstown again at the end of this month, and with the two 3-D surface models we can achieve the precision and accuracy necessary to estimate snow depth from space (assuming there is still snow when the imagery is captured!). This will allow us to estimate snow depth distribution over 100 km2. As we hone the methods we will be scaling-up to capture imagery along the West Coast and over the Main Divide to help calibrate snowmelt and water catchment models. Collaboration with SLF in Switzerland We have completed similar work with our colleague Yves Bühler at WSL-SLF in Switzerland to measure April snowpack in the Dischma Valley near Davos. We have a paper in discussion at the moment. You can see how we map the snowpack from space, including a number of depositions from wet slides, with an animation on our website. Extreme avalanche planning Aubrey Miller is starting a part-time PhD that focuses on extreme avalanche planning in NZ. Unlike in some Northern
Hemisphere countries, NZ has a relatively short observational record of avalanches that creates uncertainty around how to define an extreme avalanche event. Avalanche simulation models like RAMMS, developed by SLF in Switzerland have helped with extreme-event planning across the world. With a few exceptions, we have been lacking the high-resolution elevation information needed for simulations in NZ avalanche terrain. This project will leverage the latest advances in geospatial science, including ongoing efforts to measure alpine topography with satellites (Matariki Project) and the remote sensing of snow avalanches (research at SLF), to calibrate dynamic models and simulate extreme avalanche events in NZ. The unique topography and snow conditions in NZ will help refine how RAMMS can be used for hazard planning. An example RAMMS simulation from Hooker Valley run on a 2m elevation surface derived from 2008 aerial imagery through the MRC photogrammetry pipeline is shown in Figure 3 below:
Partnership with Mountain Safety Council We are continuing our work with the NZ Mountain Safety Council Mountain Safety Council to explore and visualise the incident data from their White Gold project. We will build on what our student Matt Wright accomplished last summer to visualise the incident data in a webGIS (which Tom Harris introduced in the last NZAD issue: https://arcg.is/0vzCC) by providing more interactive immersive visualisations. Stay tuned for updates. Understanding snow Todd Redpath has finished his PhD on characterizing snow variability, and the processes that influence it, across the Clutha catchment. Plans are underway to extend this work, which leverages the MODIS data discussed above, across the South Island with the objective of improving our understanding of historic and future variability of seasonal snow. Going forward, high resolution mapping of snow depth from photogrammetry (from drones, aircraft and satellites – as demonstrated by the Matariki project described above) will be used as a tool to support efforts to better represent the redistribution of snow in snow models. This research will improve our ability to characterise snow variability in time and space, which will likely be of interest and significant benefit to those in the avalanche community. New data from the VENμS mission
Figure 3: A RAMMS simulation using a 2 m elevation model, here depicting the maximum core flow height from a hypothetical large simultaneous release of three release areas (average release depth of 3m) on Stewart Glacier, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.
There are three study areas for the project: including Milford Road and Fiordland (focus on parameterising avalanche dynamics in models), Aoraki Mount Cook National Park (focus on topographic drivers of avalanche behaviour) and Craigieburn Range (focus on past and future climate scenarios), and we will be working with a range of partners at each site to ensure the outputs are useful for hazard planning. The project team includes Pascal and Nicolas as well as Yves Bühler and Perry Bartelt from SLF. This is a longterm project, so we have time to ensure the project outputs will be of immediate use to the avalanche community. Get in touch if you have ideas or feedback.
The Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New Micro-Satellite (VENμS) is a microsatellite jointly built by the Israeli Space Agency (ISA) and French Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) launched in 2017. As part of its environmental monitoring scientific mission over more than 100 areas of interest, the University of Otago was given the opportunity to identify two sites in the Southern Alps to shed new light on the dynamics of our snow and glaciers. With images captured every two days and a 5m spatial resolution covering Brewster Glacier and Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, VENμS delivers imagery that provide detailed insights about landscape and snowcover changes. The 2.5-year VENμS record for the New ZealandNZ sites complements other data we use to monitor snow and ice. We are currently using it to document and characterise the dust-on-snow event that occurred last summer. You can see examples of how VENμS provides new insights into NZ alpine environments here: www.otago.ac.nz/surveying/potree/pub/mrc/projects/ snotago/venus.
Fiordland Avala By Simon Morris Avalanche
avalanche events impacting into the valley
outward to produce small depressions. These depressions eventually fill with water and an avalanche tarn is created. Avalanche tarns vary in shapes and sizes. Most are circular or elliptical in shape and may vary in size from exceedingly small (2m x 5 m) to over 5 hectares in area. They are always found near the sides of valleys or at the base of the slopes where there is an abrupt change in slope angle. Most are a single tarn, but a few are a series of smaller tarns
avalanche impact field.
Once the avalanche tarn fills with water the dimensions of the tarn can quickly increase, as more and larger fragments of debris can be thrown out by the explosive effect of an avalanche impacting the water. When an avalanche impacts an existing tarn, the water and other material that are located in the tarn before the avalanche impact are forcibly ejected up and outward from the bottom. An example of this incredible impact force is evidenced in the Barren Peak avalanche tarn where several eels, previously abiding in the mud on the bottom of the tarn, were later found over 50 m away having been blasted out of their aquatic home when a large avalanche event impacted the tarn. Rock ejection fields may also be found at the far end of many avalanche tarns as the heavier material is more resistant to being fully ejected outward from the tarn. Nearby vegetation may also be extensively damaged by repeated impacts and mass ejections.
There are three ways avalanche tarns are shaped: When there is an abrupt change of slope with the valley floor a tarn may be formed (at right). These types of avalanche paths have a steep bedrock surface that runs into the valley floor. An example of this avalanche tarn type is on Mount Access where two large avalanche paths impact into the same avalanche tarn at the bottom. The start zones consist of a large area with an average slope angle of 31° for roughly 500 m in length. The avalanche track drops over the cliff band for roughly 200 m with an average incline of 73°. The mid-section of the track is roughly 500 m in length with an average incline of 56°. The final section just above the avalanche tarn is roughly 250 m in length with an average incline of 40°. The next type of avalanche tarn (at right) forms when the avalanche events become completely airborne and plunge directly into the valley floor with huge impact forces. An example of this is on Mount Christina, the top of starting zones is at an elevation of over 2,400 m. The track is over 3 km long with an average slope angle of 62°. Just before the valley floor, the larger avalanche events will crest over the natural deep ravine and plunge almost 300 m directly into the valley floor. The last type of avalanche tarn (at right), which is also the rarest of all avalanche tarn types, forms when large avalanche events impact a body of a water such as a large lake. When snow impacts the lake it drives the water downward into the lake bottom entraining and eroding material outward to produce a submerged depression in the lake, consequently forming a sub-aquatic avalanche tarn. One of these sub-aquatic avalanche tarns can be found on the western side of Lake Erskine, in Fiordland National Park. All three of these types of avalanche tarns can be found within a days walk of the Milford Highway and are well worth the visit to see firsthand the incredible forces involved in creating them.
A photogrammetric 3-D image renderedÂ from ninety eight seperate photos taken from a drone aircraft. Photo courtesy of the Milford Road Alliance.
An avalanche tarn located across the valley from Mt Crosscut. Photo: S. Morris
Distrubed vegetation from an impact into an avalanche tarn at the base of Christina Peak. Photo: S. Morris
An avalanche tarn at the base of the runout of a large avalanche path on Chasm Peak. Photo: S. Morris
Double Trouble By Brad Carpenter On March 31, 2020, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake violently shook south-central Idaho, in the U.S. Chris Lundy, a local ski guide in the Sawtooth Mountains near where the epicentre of the earthquake occurred, happened to be servicing the backcountry hut he co-owns there. Lundy described what he experienced in his blog: “At 5:52 PM, everything started to shake, rumble, and sway… Almost immediately we heard a different sort of rumbling—the kind that comes from large avalanches. My first thought was that a massive avalanche was about to hit the hut—an irrational thought since the yurts are in a safe location.” The next day Lundy was amazed by what he saw in the surrounding mountains::
Photo 1: Earthquake triggered avalanches in the Sawtooth Mountains. Credit: Tanner Haskins, SMG.
“April 1st dawned clear and cold, and at first light, we saw our first avalanches...The snow had slid from nearly every steep slope (see photo 1)…Slabs had fractured, powder had sluffed, and hanging snowfields had come unglued from vertical rock. The aprons below the steeper terrain were covered with piles upon piles of avalanche debris.”
If there is enough snow on the ground and an earthquake occurs, avalanches can be triggered. The first time I experienced this fact was on September 4th, 2010 when the magnitude 7.1 Darfield earthquake struck. This event caused extensive destruction to the Canterbury region resulting in billions of dollars of damage. The epicentre was located near enough to the surrounding mountains to cause a widespread earthquake induced avalanche cycle similar to what Lundy witnessed. There were multiple, large avalanche events triggered from steep terrain across the region. Once I started looking into these dual-natural hazards I learned that there have been many such earthquake triggered avalanche events recorded in modern times: A June 19, 1994 avalanche at Porter Heights Ski Area was determined to have been triggered by an earthquake. The avalanche occurred at night, travelled downhill across a cat track and swept a grooming machine from the slope, tipping it upside down (see photo 2). The accident destroyed the grooming machine and fatally injured the groomer operator. NZAD 80
Photo 2: Porter Heights 1994. Photo courtesy of NZ Mountain Safety Council.
In April of 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal’s Himalayan Mountains triggered multiple large avalanches. Unfortunately one large avalanche swept through the Mount Everest Base Camp and killed at least 22 climbers and Sherpas. Most recently an earthquake-induced avalanche event occurred in New Zealand on August 12, 2019 in Fiordland National Park. A magnitude 5.5 earthquake, with its epicentre located 15km north of Milford Sound, occurred at 10:35 PM. Cameras located near the East Portal of the Homer Tunnel were able to capture images (see photos 3 and 4) of powder clouds emanating from two separate backcountry avalanche events triggered by the earthquake. Although the science of avalanche forecasting has improved dramatically in modern times, at present there is no viable way to forecast for earthquake activity. As more people spend their time recreating and exploring in mountainous regions of the world the risk for human caused injuries or deaths from earthquake-induced avalanche events remains unchanged.
Photo 3: An avalanche powder cloud drifts down the valley from Mt McPherson. Photo courtesy of Milford Road Alliance.
Thanks to: Milford Road Alliance, Mountain Safety Council, Sawtooth Mountain Guides.
Photo 4: An avalanche powder cloud drifts down the Gertrude Valley from Mt Talbot. Photo courtesy of Milford Road Alliance.
Gisborne 20 Dec. 2007; M6.7
Darfield 4 Sep. 2010; M7.1
Kaikoura 14 Nov. 2016; M7.8
Christchurch Feb-Dec 2011; (M6.0 to M6.3)
! a R e r Hae
What a ride so far! We sincerely thank everyone for the support! You can keep up to date by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and be sure to check out our website: www.nzad.org. Kia Kaha New Zealand Snow People! Andy Cole in the Hokkaido backcountry with camera. Pretty typical really. Image: Kirsten Rabe