For you, the dress code is casual.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

It's Avalanche Season, 'Cause that's Just How We Roll

It's late and I'll probably call it a night shortly, well earlier than I have in several nights, but I'm knackered. Man vs. Wild is on and the dude's in some crazy northern Scottish mountain range.

I didn't catch the map at the beginning, but it seems like the wild, wonderful landscape of northern Scotland's Cape Wrath described by Paul Theroux in The Kingdom by the Sea. (A place I've always wanted to see but ultimately suspect it'd smack largely of my home province, but on smaller scale. We gots mad mountains here, man. Mad, mad, mad. No wee island's mountains are gonna compete with ours. C'mon!)

Anyhow. He showed how to test the snow's susceptibility to avalanche, by digging 10 or more inches deep, carving out a 18" or so square shape (just carving the perimeter and leaving the square's inside intact) and then, it's complicated to describe, but you try pulling the square of snow horizontally towards yourself and if it shifts, it's vulnerable. How easily and far it shifts is indicative of its level of vulnerability. Doesn't shift, it's a stable snowpack.

Here in BC, though, is proof that what seems stable isn't always. Avalanche control and prediction is not an exact science.

BC's smack dab in the centre of what's shaping up to be our worst avalanche season ever. Avalanches are standard issue here in BC, where we're blessed with even alpine rainforests, meaning crazy snow seasons. With ever-warming climate, though, we're getting more mixed bags of weather. Weather change-ups really fuck with the snowpack, creating layers of varying densities, and with freezing temperatures thrown in the mix, sudden warming... Whew. Madness can occur.

Hell, we just had an avalanche on a groomed ski hill for the first time in two decades here. One fatality for sure, and I think an Aussie's still missing. Terrible stuff. Fucked up, for sure. But that's Mother Nature, as fickle as any woman could be.

And here's this wacky Aussie dude who loves to tango with the wild and walks out of one life-threatening scenario after another. Some kid pays good money for the safety of a groomed run and this avalanche-death shit happens. What an ironic world, huh?

I'm not saying the ski hill's liable. Maybe they are. Good chance it's just that fickle wench Nature, and the existential dice rolled with them guys' number coming up. I don't know. Certainly don't need an avalanche to die on a groomed ski hill, though. Just ask Sonny Bono. And the tree.

Some days, the remote control and the couch really do sound like a great notion, eh? Oh, great box of pretty moving pictures... [click-click]