Here you will find research and information pertaining to avalanche safety. Some of the information shared will derive directly from the field of snow safety while much will be drawn from adjacent fields such as aviation, medicine, psychology, neuroscience, and economics. In order to gain a better understanding of how best to interact with the mountains we need to engage in a diverse assessment of arenas outside of our own. There is a lot of work being done by incredibly intelligent researchers and skiers and I will do my best to make sure their insights are presented here. Remember knowledge for safe travel in the backcountry is twofold, knowledge of the environment and knowledge of the self.
Avalanche Essentials – Bruce Tremper
Great short read. Very current and relevant for backcountry skiers and riders. Make note that chapter 1 is “how dangerous is the brain.”
Thinking Fast & Slow – Daniel Kahneman
This is an information rich book that is approachable and relatively easy to read. Remember WYSIATI.
The Black Swan – Nassim Taleb
Similar in style to the aforementioned Kahneman ( who is frequently cited in this book), Taleb presents a well thought out and engaging argument for why we all shouldn’t be surprised by seemingly random events. Although his writing style is sometimes aggressive the information he presents is nonetheless on point. Follow Taleb on twitter for some thought inspiring tweets.
Chaos: Making a New Science – James Gleick
Not sure how many versions and iterations there are of this book but there is a reason it is so widely published. For those interested in systems thinking (which we all should be to some degree) this book is a great place to start.
Starlight & Storm – Gaston Rebuffat
This is a classic and is recommended for anyone with alpine ambitions. Rebuffat’s humble and engaging storytelling makes it difficult to put this quick read down.
ARTICLES & ESSAYS
Changing the Culture of Shame – Bruce Tremper – Do yourself and the backcountry community a favor and read this. Be nice and remember that no one makes the right choice all the time and the only way we can create “ethically accepted accidents” is if we build a community that allows us to safely share our mishaps and failures.
Using a Checklist for Travel in Backcountry Avalanche Terrain – Don Carpenter, Don Sharaf, and Sarah Carpenter – This article focuses on developing systems and checklists for backcountry skiers as decision making aids. The backcountry is a complex dynamic system and everyone could do a better job of creating and using checklists to help mitigate uncertainty complexity. This article is relevant for novices and experts.
MOVIES & WEBPAGES
Sportgevity – Robb Gaffney has done a great job developing a site dedicated to the investigation of the more cerebral aspects of participation in “high risk” sports. My favorite facet of the page are the video interviews he conducts with skiing legends regarding risk and decision making. Be sure to dedicate at least 30 min to watching these quick clips. There is a wealth of information here.
The Fine Line – One of Sherpas Cinema’s earliest full productions and probably still their best. This movie is a great off season watch on many levels. Definitely worth a watch or four.
(here is the teaser)
This is a great five part series from POWDER and Black Diamond. David Page and crew provide an in-depth look at Ian McCammon’s heuristic traps research. The research and investigation is thorough while the writing remains accessible to all. This is necessary read for anyone going backcountry skiing.