Chris Davenport has spent his life in the big mountains. He’s successfully made the transition from freeskier to ski mountaineer without ever losing the freeskier side of himself. He’s seen his share of avalanche terrain and had his share of incidents.
This video shows Chris getting caught in an avalanche.
“It’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen, it’s a matter of when it’s going to happen.” – Chris Davenport
Below are some solid avalanche safety tips from Chris Davenport. Please take the time to sit down and read them, they could be infinitely valuable some day.
Managing your expectations in the mountains is very important. Set broad goals and low expectations at the start of the day, rather than aiming for a specific goal with high expectations when the avalanche hazard suggests otherwise. Having fun is more important than maintaining unrealistic expectations.
Terrain and Exposure:
Terrain choices are critical to safety. When you stand atop your chosen ski line, ask yourself, ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen if I ski this line? If it slides, is there a terrain trap or a secondary exposure hazard? Are you OK with the risk of the worst case scenario?’ If not, change your plan.
Human factors related to decision making receive a lot of attention, but honesty is often overlooked. You need to be honest with yourself and your group about your expectations and thoughts. Humility and a humble approach to the mountains are important to having fun. Listen to your intuition and communicate honestly with your ski partners about decisions.
Choose your ski partners wisely. Strong partnerships are the foundation to good communication and help overcome many common human factor issues. Mutual trust and understanding are critical as are compatible goals. A good ski partnership is like a good relationship with a spouse or an old friend where communication is easily understood and easy to facilitate. I’ve skied with many partners, and it is the strong partnerships that yield the fun and rewarding ski days.
Data is King:
There is so much information at our fingertips today: avalanche and weather forecasts, trip reports and field observations. Use the information. People continue to make mistakes in the mountains when even the data paints a clear image of high avalanche risk. Use the data available to note red flags and obvious hazards when planning your day.