An Update from the Avalanche Center
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Introduction, From the Director
It seems the entire winter went by with no updates this season. Resources have continued to diminished and my own time has been split between an increasing number of other things. However, the Avalanche Center is still here and there have been things happening. Even now we have a very timely spring climbers avalanche course available, designed specifially for this time of year as opposed to mid-winter skiing.
Following the minimal auction we held this season I was on an extended trip for entirely unrelated business. Following that was the annual Outdoor Retailer Show in Utah where we had an exhibitor table for the first time. This was good exposure within the industry, although whether it results in any benefits as far as providing public services is unclear. More recently I had another lengthy trip also unrelated to this project. But despite the unrelated trips and the somewhat involved OR show trip the Level 1 course has been operating and the store has operated, which is essential as it is the primary source of funding at this time.
Shirt Sale - After reducing our supply of shirts earlier we purchased a large number for the OR show, as well as a supply of decals. We sold quite a few but not nearly as many as we had ordered so we are still having a sale. We have all sizes S-XL in comfortable light weight short sleeves for summer, they are $15 including the shipping.
Education - Avalanche Institute
Our Spring Climbers Course is now in full swing. This is a much simpler and shorter version of a complete Level 1 course and covers spring conditions with an emphasis on climbing (including spring ski mountaineering). In the Northwest US there is a secondary maximum in avalanche fatalities in May and June, and in Oregon the majority of all fatalities have been in late May and the very beginning of June.
This is not a slightly modified Level 1 course with a "twist" of some kind. The weather and snowpack modules are spring specific and do not cover the complications of mid-winter. There is no field day, the emphasis is entirely on planning a safe climb to begin with. Mountaineering usually involves starting before dawn and ascending steep slopes, any kind of snowpit observation once on the slope is a bit of an afterthought. Timing and the current surface conditions are the essential factors and most accidents happen at times when these things should have been identified before leaving home.
Originally it was estimated that this was equivalent in value to half of a complete Level 1 course. But given the complexity and completeness of the Level 1 course and after reviewing the climbing course we have set the regular cost at one third of the Level 1. Students who have completed our Level 1 can take the Climbers course free, and will have covered some of it already. Students who complete the Climbers course this spring may apply it's full value towards a Level 1 course if they decide to pursue the complete in-depth material next fall.
Right now, through most of May, we are even discounting this particular course below the full value. And as always, members can pay even less. (Members - if you're not logged in on the registration page just click the key icon to log in, the page should then refresh with the lower price.)
As with the Level 1 course there are complete details posted. You can start with a flowchart of the course modules, click on any of them for specific objectives, and click on the listing to the side for a complete description of any given module. Not only do we provide such complete details on what you will cover but we can guarantee you will be able to cover all of it. There will be nothing lost due to time constraints, outdoor conditions, any temporary loss of attention span, etc.
Like all of our complete courses this is a course, not a tuotrial or forum. There are scored assessments throughout so you have feedback and reinforcement, there is access to an instructor at any point in the course, and there are tools to collaborate with instructors and other students.
Incidentally, these pages are the first to use a new design for the Avalanche Institute which is consistent with the actual course pages. Feedback is welcome, especially with any problems encountered. They are heavily css based which is somewhat of a new approach for this site.
We have some items left to get rid of on sale. They've been posting on e-bay and we've sold some that way but close to everything is listed on the sale page now. There are still quite a few probes, B-1 and B-2 BCA shovels, and a few other things left. We'd like to get rid of these before the end of May, partly to free up space and partly because we need the cash flow over summer.
As always there are even lower prices for members, and no shipping. If you are on the sale page and not logged in it will show that. Click the key icon, log in, and the page should refresh with members deals. (When we began members features they were all just linked to from the welcome page but we have converted most of them to this method of displaying the members version to members who are logged in automatically.
Incidentally, shirts on the store sale page are even cheaper than the page linked to in the introduction above, and on the members sale page they are even cheaper - as cheap as we can possibly sell them for! (The price on the shirts page is somehow built in as $15 so until we figure out how to change that in paypal the store sale page is lower.)
Beacon Park Notes
One of our customers was doing some very in-depth practicing and beacon analysis this winter and the outcome is worth sharing.
He had what he felt were strange results with his new digital beacon. To eliminate the possibility of a faulty beacon we replaced it for him, although it seems like now that it was faulty. He continued to try multiple beacon searches with different brands and models and numbers of targets with mixed results.
In the end it appears one of the primary issues was using a beacon park for too many targets. The targets in beacon parks are not actual beacons - before long these would be recovered and disappear. They are very good simulations and work fine until you search for too many at once. SInce every park and each beacon model is a bit different, and spacings and orientations are different, it's not possible to give a number for "too many". But if you increase the number of target signals and it seems like your beacon is not acting quite right there are probably signal issues due to complicated spacings, orientations and other factors among the beacon simulators.
This should not be a serious limitation on the value of these parks for practice, it is possible to search for several signals and have a reasonable response from your beacon. Realistically it is very uncommon to have to search for very many signals at once, and to the extent it may happen any more than 3 should be extremely rare. There are a few such cases in our incident database than spans almost 2000 reports and 15+ years, but not many.
The beacon park "saturation" issue came up after some email discussions this customer had with other alpine club members, at least one representative from a beacon manufacturer, guides, and others. It appears to be the major reason for differences between several real beacons buried and too many signals in a park. But there are some secondary factors in some situations as well - there have always been potential difficulties with older analog beacons as targets, especially using flagging features for them, and differences in models may cause a few issues. It's also important to get a feel for the best speed to move at, it seems that for many digital beacons steady but slow is best but be sure to practice with your own to see. Moving too fast or too abrupty may not allow the processing to keep up, especially with multiple burials.
So beacon parks are great for testing your beacon skills and finding out about any quirks with search speed, multiple signals, etc. But if you turn on too many targets and things don't seem to work right you may just be exceeding the limits of what you can do there. (And the limits of what you really need to do anyway.)
One result of all the trial and error and discussion behind this is that Yuri probably knows his beacon very well by now, and probably has excellent searching skills!
On Tap ...
There is work to be done this month as time allows and updates will be sent as that gets done. Aside from running the climbers course and selling off what's left in the store the next task is continued catching up on the years incidents. This has been going on but slowly and any comments on this will have to wait for the next update.