Kirsty on the Fench Fry (Mt Record) – 1996 – A classic old pic taken from White-wolf ridge by my brother. Mine’s the middle track, and the conditions were as perfect as they look.
The Canadian Avalanche Centre provides a valuable public service with their regularly updated bulletins. It must be challenging trying to summarize something as complicated as the evolving story of a region’s snow-pack, into an avalanche danger rating scale, but their current ratings do seem particularly misleading. The Kootenay Boundary forecast is currently calling the danger “high” at all elevations. According to the international danger scale (which the CAC applies) high means – “Natural and human triggered avalanches likely”, but that’s certainly not what I’m seeing. Since the warming on January 6th – 8th, and the cooling since the evening of January 8th, we have about 1.5 meters of well consolidated and bonded (there’s a couple of hard sheers) snow on top of rotten crusts and facets. With minimal penetration and fast surface conditions, there’s great skiing to be had on moderate angled slopes (and I’m not finding any issues on steep terrain either). Significant snowfall or rapidly rising temperatures would change things, but for now the probability of a natural release is miniscule, and it would take a very particular set of circumstances for a skier triggered release to occur. Sure, determining exactly where such a skier triggered release might occur is very difficult to predict, and the consequences could be major, but with experience and a conservative attitude backcountry conditions certainly seem manageable. I spoke earlier with CAC staffer Ilya Storm, and the CAC (based on the advice of experienced professionals) seems to be conflating predictability, consequence, and probability into “high” probability ratings in order to warn off the adventurous but inexperienced. I expect that the unpredicatibility is particularly disturbing to the experts, but as usual I’ve a libertarian sensibility on such matters, and think if they are to be credible the CAC has an obligation to impartial accuracy, and that the responsibility for decision making should remain with the individual.