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Mon., March 28, 2011, 10:14 a.m.

Snowboarder’s death focuses concern on spring snowpack

WINTER SPORTS -- The weekend avalanche death of a snowboarder near Stevens Pass has sobered some backcountry travelers, and brought forth some worthwhile thoughts. 

Following is a comment from a skier named Ed posted with the news story about the death. It follows the same train of thought in the recommendations of the weekly avalanche forecast for this region.

Check it out.

This is very unfortunate and I pray for the victims friends and loved ones.

Everyone please be very careful out there, this is an unusual spring season because the snow pack continues to be added to on a regular basis. This additional snow delays the usual spring process of the deeper snow pack moving from temperature gradient to equitemperature so the weak layers from storms earlier in the season remain in place. Additionally, small amounts of snow fall which would not be associated with avalanches during the winter add moisture density to the upper layers of the snow pack which puts additional pressure on buried weak layers.

If you are going to the back country, either by skiing or riding our of bounds, or by climbing up, there is no substitute for digging a snow pit and using at least shear strength and hand hardness tests to assess the stability of the buried layers in the snow pack. Look for water between snow pack layers, which is waiting to lubricate a slab release.

It appears that this skier was killed by striking a tree, so a transceiver, shovel and probe, and practiced knowledge of how to use them are not a guarantee of survival. Take the time to dig that aforementioned snow pit.

Be careful.


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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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