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  1. #26
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    That Powder Mag article is good stuff.
    When life gives you haters, make haterade.

  2. #27
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    yad think a novelist would know much like the river
    no man/woman ever stands on the exact same slope twice
    for the slope and snowpack are never the same
    nor is the man/women
    when you learn thing
    can be as important as how
    and they'll give you the cert even if your just there
    for a shitty article in a shitty fish wrap
    "When the child was a child it waited patiently for the first snow and it still does"- Van "The Man" Morrison
    "I find I have already had my reward, in the doing of the thing" - Buzz Holmstrom
    "THIS IS WHAT WE DO"-AML -
    ski on in eternal peace

  3. #28
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    What I learned in Avalanche School

    Quote Originally Posted by PNWbrit View Post
    Floaty little bastards.

    Damn tasty though.
    They do serve a purpose.

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  4. #29
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    It's pretty funny to see everyone getting all worked up when someone points out the needless exposure to risk that many of us choose to expose ourselves too. We've all been lucky many more times than we've been right, it's just that some of us aren't willing to admit it.

    IMO, if you're not at least occasionally framing these choices in a fatalistic way, you're being dishonest with yourself and those you care about/who care about you.

  5. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by glademaster View Post
    It's pretty funny to see everyone getting all worked up when someone points out the needless exposure to risk that many of us choose to expose ourselves too. We've all been lucky many more times than we've been right, it's just that some of us aren't willing to admit it.

    IMO, if you're not at least occasionally framing these choices in a fatalistic way, you're being dishonest with yourself and those you care about/who care about you.
    Nobody is infallible, and discussions about luck, control, and fate eventually lead to a realization (or irrational denial) that free will itself is a just a useful illusion, but IMO the purpose of examining the thought processes that go into managing risk in inherently risky situations is to manage risks more skillfully, because that in itself is feels deeply engaging and satisfying. Whether being aware of the relevant heuristics actually reduces risk (statistically no, personally?) is a more complicated discussion.

  6. #31
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    What I learned in Avalanche School

    Overall I like reading avalanche related stories whether theyíre about learning about them, accidents and the story behind them, whatever. I usually learn something. I even learned something from the NYT article. Nonetheless, she lost me when she couldnít figure out if the rental was AWD. I know. Thatís me.
    Well maybe I'm the faggot America
    I'm not a part of a redneck agenda

  7. #32
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    Her not figuring out the car was an unintentional metaphor for the whole thing.

  8. #33
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    This quote from the article is worth considering. "Then Ryan revealed a second twist: By entering the storefront two hours earlier, by taking an avalanche-safety course, we had statistically increased our chances of being killed in an avalanche. We were more likely to die now than we were at 8 a.m."

    That might be expressed another way: the stated purpose of an avalanche course is to make you less likely to die in an avalanche; the actual purpose is to make you more comfortable about skiing in avalanche-prone conditions.

  9. #34
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    The split in Recreational VS Professional avi courses is designed to address that and from my experiences very few instructors try and teach people to be more comfortable and for good reasons.

    Because unless you have a lot of experience you will suck badly at forecasting for stability and the only way to obtain that experience.... Yadda Yadda Yadda.

    Even then with a fair amount of experience a small error may kill you as shown by that Powder article. And unfortunately you could go your entire skiing life making small errors that under the right conditions would be fatal except that the dominoes never quite stack the right way, ergo you are skilled at traveling in avalanche prone terrain. Or maybe just plain lucky.
    Last edited by Bunion 2020; 01-04-2020 at 03:49 PM.
    Ooof!

  10. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by old goat View Post
    This quote from the article is worth considering. "Then Ryan revealed a second twist: By entering the storefront two hours earlier, by taking an avalanche-safety course, we had statistically increased our chances of being killed in an avalanche. We were more likely to die now than we were at 8 a.m."

    That might be expressed another way: the stated purpose of an avalanche course is to make you less likely to die in an avalanche; the actual purpose is to make you more comfortable about skiing in avalanche-prone conditions.
    There was a failure to contextualize this oft misapplied statistic for the author. Or she simply didn't listen when the instructors gave the context.

    People who take avalanche classes are typically low experience and low knowledge folks looking to get into more risky terrain, or to be smarter about managing their current risk. So they want some knowledge, they take a class, and good for them!

    The purpose of the avalanche safety course is to help manage risk by making better decisions about choosing and traveling through terrain, plus how to manage a group and a rescue. A 3 or 4 day course can give knowledge, methodology, and basic skills, but not experience.

    So is there a cause and effect relationship between avalanche training and avalanche accidents as the author silently implies? Is the content learned what gets people killed? No, and the study addressing this didn't reach that conclusions either. Also, the original statistic is well out of date versus new teaching emphasis on human factors. But those referencing the study often suggest the avalanche course is the cause, implicitly or explicitly, and almost always for dramatic effect.

    But the author unwittingly got it right: the correlation would apply to anyone who had come to the class, already at 2 hours in, irrespective of what they learned.

    I always tell my students that if they've come through class confident in their judgement of avalanche phenomenon and decision making, then they are on the path to becoming a statistic. The trick is to be conservative and have a good mentor to contextualize knowledge, practice skillsets, and cement good practices. This allows experience to build up without overconfidence or overexposure, if there is honest feedback.

    The other thing the author got kinda right was that if you are a mistake based learner, the avalanche problem is a very rough teacher. What she didn't quite nail is the issue of people getting away with their mistakes most of the time, until they don't. Negative feedback for bad decisions is rare in the avalanche world. That is why we operate with best practices and good heuristics (as opposed to traps). But, you can (and must) learn from these mistakes-without-consequences (also known as getting lucky) if you actively and critically analyze your decisions and apply lessons to the future. We all make these mistakes, but learning requires a good partner and a tradition of debriefing each day. I did this today with a new touring partner in Bear Creek. A good debrief recognizes what you did right and what you can improve on.

    True experience is a series of non-fatal mistakes from which you learn and improve and a series of good practices recognized and reinforced. Now, think about this definition, and think about what "false experience" must entail: mental traps, "knowing what cannot be known," taking no-consequence results as positive reinforcement... we all know BC riders with a lot of years under their belt whose decision-making is overly guided by the false experience profile.
    Last edited by Summit; 01-05-2020 at 10:48 AM. Reason: spellings
    Quote Originally Posted by blurred
    skiing is hiking all day so that you can ski on shitty gear for 5 minutes.

  11. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by PNWbrit View Post
    Floaty little bastards.

    Damn tasty though.
    chickens of the sea

  12. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Summit View Post
    There was a failure to contextualize this oft misapplied statistic for the author. Or she simply didn't listen when the instructors gave the context.[...]
    Pretty much the only helpful aspect of her article have been your posts -- much appreciated!
    (And too bad the NYT doesn't see fit to publish anything from you instead.)
    For those stuck in the Northeast, check out the NE Rando Race Series and my avalanche course. (For other avalanche course providers anywhere, feel free to use any of my "homework" assignments for your own courses too.)

  13. #38
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    It was interesting to see the experience through someone who didn't have the mindset to do much with the backcountry travel education ( and admittedly disclosed same). It's also a good reminder that backcountry skiing is not for everyone

  14. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Summit View Post
    There was a failure to contextualize this oft misapplied statistic for the author. Or she simply didn't listen when the instructors gave the context.

    People who take avalanche classes are typically low experience and low knowledge folks looking to get into more risky terrain, or to be smarter about managing their current risk. So they want some knowledge, they take a class, and good for them!

    The purpose of the avalanche safety course is to help manage risk by making better decisions about choosing and traveling through terrain, plus how to manage a group and a rescue. A 3 or 4 day course can give knowledge, methodology, and basic skills, but not experience.

    So is there a cause and effect relationship between avalanche training and avalanche accidents as the author silently implies? Is the content learned what gets people killed? No, and the study addressing this didn't reach that conclusions either. Also, the original statistic is well out of date versus new teaching emphasis on human factors. But those referencing the study often suggest the avalanche course is the cause, implicitly or explicitly, and almost always for dramatic effect.

    But the author unwittingly got it right: the correlation would apply to anyone who had come to the class, already at 2 hours in, irrespective of what they learned.

    I always tell my students that if they've come through class confident in their judgement of avalanche phenomenon and decision making, then they are on the path to becoming a statistic. The trick is to be conservative and have a good mentor to contextualize knowledge, practice skillsets, and cement good practices. This allows experience to build up without overconfidence or overexposure, if there is honest feedback.

    The other thing the author got kinda right was that if you are a mistake based learner, the avalanche problem is a very rough teacher. What she didn't quite nail is the issue of people getting away with their mistakes most of the time, until they don't. Negative feedback for bad decisions is rare in the avalanche world. That is why we operate with best practices and good heuristics (as opposed to traps). But, you can (and must) learn from these mistakes-without-consequences (also known as getting lucky) if you actively and critically analyze your decisions and apply lessons to the future. We all make these mistakes, but learning requires a good partner and a tradition of debriefing each day. I did this today with a new touring partner in Bear Creek. A good debrief recognizes what you did right and what you can improve on.

    True experience is a series of non-fatal mistakes from which you learn and improve and a series of good practices recognized and reinforced. Now, think about this definition, and think about what "false experience" must entail: mental traps, "knowing what cannot be known," taking no-consequence results as positive reinforcement... we all know BC riders with a lot of years under their belt whose decision-making is overly guided by the false experience profile.
    Great stuff.

    On the issue of feedback, Iíve always made a point of getting up close and personal to the hazards. Obviously not an effective strategy with Low Probability / High Consequence scenarios, but in my neighbourhood where storm slabs are the more usual issue, Iíve internalized most of what I know about terrain and stability from endlessly goofing around in low consequence terrain on high hazard days.

    The problem with heuristics is that just being aware of them isnít enough to escape their effects (I recall Daniel Kahneman acknowledging this in recent interview). The key is to establish and follow simple ďrulesĒ that limit their impact, such as: Starting early, no more than 4 in the group, and avoiding other groups.

  15. #40
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    Militaries, and industries would call your "rules" SOPs. And decades of scientific study have shown they work.

  16. #41
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    I just got out of a hut trip in Canada to find about 8 emails sending me the link to that NYT article. I skimmed it and wasn't quite sure exactly WHY it got under my skin, but your comments all helped, especially Summit's. Thanks.
    anytime you write about your experience for a hi-vis magazine you end up NOT entering into the experience fully, and she comes from a place of fear and lack of understanding of WHY we like to ski in the backcountry. Just go to the mall, fergodsakes, lady.

  17. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by homemadesalsa View Post
    anytime you write about your experience for a hi-vis magazine you end up NOT entering into the experience fully
    Yeah, I think this is a good point. The author just strikes me as kind of self-involved, too. Like the piece really gets into how her experience of getting out of her comfort zone impacts her. It's definitely well-written in parts, but frustrating in others.

  18. #43
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    Reading the NYT article, I felt like she approached the whole thing looking for an angle. She also didn't pay close enough attention, for example this part:

    "Snow pits are no longer the primary focus of avalanche-training courses, in part because human beings are the more erratic variable but also because of a phenomenon called “spatial variability,” meaning that a snow pit provides information only about itself and says nothing about the stability a person might find in a different snow pit, dug two feet away in any direction."

    That's only true if you're approaching it incorrectly and looking for permission / stability from a pit and not the other way around. If you do find instability / weak layers, it's enough reason to assume they exist elsewhere nearby. Which is the whole point.

    She was clearly out of her element and then just assuaged her feelings of insecurity by unfairly assigning machoism to the whole thing. Not saying that sort of thing doesn't happen, but in this case I don't really see it.

  19. #44
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    That was a challenging read but I made it through the whole thing. I wholly agree with TahoeJ about her being out of her element. It really came across as less of an article about someone's Avy 1 experience and more her using her course as a vehicle to describe her insecurity and extreme discomfort traveling on skis in the mountains.

    The part describing a back-and-forth with the instructor wherein she insisted that she'd be better suited on snowshoes almost stopped me in my tracks. I don't profess to have seen it all by any means but it's difficult to imagine someone on snowshoes moving at the same speed as a group on skins, even a slow group.

    I was the only person with no actual business being there.
    That sums it up perfectly and ties back nicely to the notion that this article has almost nothing to do with avalanches.

  20. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Striker View Post
    Her not figuring out the car was an unintentional metaphor for the whole thing.
    Quote Originally Posted by homemadesalsa View Post
    anytime you write about your experience for a hi-vis magazine you end up NOT entering into the experience fully, and she comes from a place of fear and lack of understanding of WHY we like to ski in the backcountry.
    Quote Originally Posted by TahoeJ View Post
    Reading the NYT article, I felt like she approached the whole thing looking for an angle.

    She was clearly out of her element and then just assuaged her feelings of insecurity by unfairly assigning machoism to the whole thing.
    Quote Originally Posted by idahospud View Post
    It really came across as less of an article about someone's Avy 1 experience and more her using her course as a vehicle to describe her insecurity and extreme discomfort traveling on skis in the mountains.
    We're all saying the same thing here: it isn't possible to simultaneously be both observer and participant.

    The student her is insecure and afraid. The writer her has already determined the outcome: there will be a story. And that story can't be boring. So rather than being in the moment, she's looking for the angle. And in doing so, missing the bigger picture.

  21. #46
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    2 comments on summit's post. First, I don't think there was any implication that the course content made people less safe. If the statistic is still valid it is the false sense of security that taking a course gives someone, not the knowledge. Second, a question--are there studies that show that human factor based education has improved statistics compared to technical focused training?

    The great trap in my profession is tunnel vision--you get an idea in your head about what is wrong with a patient or what the anatomy is that you are dissecting and you ignore contrary information. The problem is that tunnel vision by definition prevents you from realizing you have tunnel vision. You can train yourself to stop, take a breath, and reconsider when things don't seem quite right but by then it's often too late. I am much, much less experienced with avalanches (although I have been partially buried skiing with a guide) but it seems to me the heuristic traps in avalanche safety are all forms of tunnel vision--not seeing what is there to be seen, like in the famous gorilla/basketball video. Our brains are evolved to ignore that which seems not to be relevant, which 99% of the time allows us to function in the world, but 1% of the time can get someone killed.

    One particular source of blindness in avalanche situations is that we have a generation or two of backcountry skiers who came to the sport from resort skiing--skiing steep, controlled slopes. When the backcountry run you are skiing FEELS like what you have safely skied inbounds, it is easy to ignore what you KNOW.
    Last edited by old goat; 01-06-2020 at 06:56 PM.

  22. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by old goat View Post
    2 comments on summit's post. First, I don't think there was any implication that the course content made people less safe. If the statistic is still valid it is the false sense of security that taking a course gives someone, not the knowledge.
    .
    My take is that people with some avalanche education get that education so they can recreate in avalanche terrain and that, in and of itself raises the chances that something avalanche related may befall them,
    Ooof!

  23. #48
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    ^ drivers ed almost surely makes folks more likely to die in a car accident too right?

  24. #49
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    By that same logic? Yes.
    Ooof!

  25. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Striker View Post
    : it isn't possible to simultaneously be both observer and participant.
    Interesting that you should bring this up as this article had me thinking about some research I've conducted where I've taken on a participant-observer role. Publishing result based on this type of data should include a clear positionality statement and disclosure of biases as such work is obviously highly subjective. More importantly, participant-observer research is almost always founded on the notion that those being observed are experts in their own experiences, and that their expertise has value to the field of study. In fact that is the point- to uncover, value and share perspectives that are typically ignored.

    This is where the author failed badly (even though she isn't conducting research). Despite her lack of skill as a skier and lack of knowledge concerning avalanches, she clings to her position as the smartest person in the room. She showed little respect for fellow classmates despite bumming a ride from them, and little interest in their motivations other than distilling it all down to inane machismo. BC skiers and climbers may certainly be fairly characterized as conquistadors of the useless, but for an outsider to reduce it all to such an observation is both lazy and boring.

    My biggest complaint about the article is that she seems to view her instructors as having status and knowledge similar to an 18 year rafting "guide" on a gap year. If she had solicited and included some of the instructors' perspectives and balanced that with her own she could have put together a more nuanced and thoughtful article. She certainly isn't devoid of insight. She does a good enough job explaining some of the concepts taught in avy 1. But she instinctively pathologizes behaviors that she doesn't understand rather than consulting with the experts she has paid to teach her and weighing their understandings against her own. As a result the main thing I took from the article is that she doesn't get it and doesn't really want to.

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