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 Post subject: Re: Avalanche kills five snowboarders at Loveland Pass, CO
PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:12 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2008 7:38 pm
Posts: 394
Location: Eugene and Coos Bay, Oregon.
Karkis and Barrows, you guys are awesome and I really respect your opinions.

Unfortunately, we cannot know either way but I want to make sure that we are not overly discounting group dynamics in this case. I think saying group dynamics played little to no role in this accident is just as bad as saying group dynamics was the ultimate cause of this accident.

Having been the victim of heuristics in a group on more than one occasion, I find it hard to believe that a least one to multiple people in that group did not have unexpressed doubts about the terrain they were traversing. If not that, then they were assuming that others were making solid decisions for them so they did not need to pay so much attention to the terrain.

Also, it does not sound like what I would call the low probability, high consequence day of a buried but mostly dormant weak layer. It seems like there were enough slides in the preceding days om the area to say that there was a moderate to high probability of setting off a slide traversing under an avy slope.


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 Post subject: Re: Avalanche kills five snowboarders at Loveland Pass, CO
PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:50 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 23, 2005 10:05 am
Posts: 1519
Location: Colorado
buell wrote:
Karkis and Barrows, you guys are awesome and I really respect your opinions.

Unfortunately, we cannot know either way but I want to make sure that we are not overly discounting group dynamics in this case. I think saying group dynamics played little to no role in this accident is just as bad as saying group dynamics was the ultimate cause of this accident.

Having been the victim of heuristics in a group on more than one occasion, I find it hard to believe that a least one to multiple people in that group did not have unexpressed doubts about the terrain they were traversing. If not that, then they were assuming that others were making solid decisions for them so they did not need to pay so much attention to the terrain.

Also, it does not sound like what I would call the low probability, high consequence day of a buried but mostly dormant weak layer. It seems like there were enough slides in the preceding days om the area to say that there was a moderate to high probability of setting off a slide traversing under an avy slope.


Buell, we cannot know as you say. But hearing how they approached the terrain in question, it is pretty clear to me that they were aware of the danger, and had agreed to expose only one a time to that danger (they thought). I was contrasting this event to Tunnel Creek, where it is clear to me that the group dynamic was (almost) entirely responsible for the accident.
While with hindsight, and from a considerable distance, it might appear that this deep instability was well known to be producing big avalanches wherever it existed, as someone who lives in Colorado, I can honestly say that this was not the case. Indeed, triggering a HS release on this layer was a very, very rare possibility. This was not a case where every slope around with these characteristics was releasing: it is totally accurate to term this as a low probability, and high consequence event. This weak layer was present over a huge area of Colorado, for a long period of time, and only a few slides were triggered on it. Even control work would more often than not produce no results. The CAIC did warn about this possibility, but they too called it a low probability, high consequence situation.
With hindsight, it is clear that this specific slope, at this specific spot, was ready to move; but, honestly, I do not think this was clear at all, from the previous few days of activity, from the reporting of the CAIC, or from my experiences in the backcountry over the course of this winter.

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 Post subject: Re: Avalanche kills five snowboarders at Loveland Pass, CO
PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2013 11:21 am 
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Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2005 5:06 pm
Posts: 167
Location: Mt Shasta
Tragic and sad indeed.

Thought the wildsnow blog was right on in terms of clinically discussing the issue and potential mistakes that led to the tragedy. The timing was right on as this is iron that will not shape unless its hot.

My perspective on this is affected by the fact I was taken out in a slide this winter locally and luckily did not get seriously hurt based on the relatively small slide (150' x 1000') and fact I was able to punch the sliding surface which caused the slide to leave me behind. One of my boards went off cliff bands, the other was buried and recovered the next week using metal detectors, coulda been me!

I broke many of the same rules the Loveland group did. We dug pits and avioded terrain we identified as suspect. Based on group mentality and deference to a guy who knew the area better than all we followed into the suspect terrain. 3 of us were spread out by about 50' (way too close to avoid anything but a slough) when the slope ripped. I was last and took it on the nose: one guy went 50', one guy 100' and I, 700'.

I had second thoughts I rejected when I traversed from absolute safety onto a slab I intended to aviod when we started the day (end of epic pow day, one last chute to get and they're all ahead and leader knows the terrain better than I). The one group member that was done climbing and in a safe zone couldn't see us from his vantage.

Swimming is a bullshit option when your in the dark tumbling down the hill at mach speed, by the way.

The point of this is the Wildsnow blog might have hurt some who didn't want a clinical so soon after the event but that is the time when the iron is hot and the analysis has the most impact in my opinion. I've read all the books but none of the horror stories hit home until it was personal and analysis was immediate cause I couldn't stop thinking about the day.

Again, condolences to those involved and their families.


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 Post subject: Re: Avalanche kills five snowboarders at Loveland Pass, CO
PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2013 6:08 pm 
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Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:38 pm
Posts: 255
Location: powder central, bc, canuckistan
sorry but i gotta argue the opposing position, that guy, again...

shasta wrote:
My perspective on this is affected by the fact I was taken out in a slide this winter...
I broke many of the same rules the Loveland group did.

buell wrote:
Having been the victim of heuristics in a group on more than one occasion


i gotta point out that altho imagination and creativity are considered virtues of human nature, their prevalence is generally overstated. Most of us tend to project our own experiences on the world around us, while being more or less blind to the nature and potential of reality.
Not to pick on you two, its every one of us, your experiences were, i expect, interesting and educational, and i'm glad for you both that you lived to learn. but it doesn't mean they made the same mistake you did.

you're totally right Buell that we don't know the part group dynamics played in that accident, but to a large extent it really doesn't matter. It's been mentioned that the Tunnel Creek accident last year was a very clear demonstration of group dynamics playing a huge role in creating a tragedy. It may have played a part at Loveland too, or not. To me, the one thing that was very much remarkable about this event is that a pretty frickin huge avalanche (think of the structural strength of 6' of settled snow) was triggered from low angle terrain (10deg), 600' vert (directly, thats around 1600' or 4.5 football fields) away from the start zone. Thats mind boggling.

yah ok maybe someone had some doubts or fears about their exposure. Maybe. or maybe they all thought they were
russman wrote:
choosing the most mellow approach, to the most mellow terrain


i think what bugs me enough that im coming back to make this point, with all the beakin' on wildsnow about heuristics and alpha angles and how other similar? slopes that failed (more or less) recently (more or less) nearby, and whatever else, blah blah blah, mostly irrelevant, and otherwise looking for something to point a finger at, is that they are all avoiding a good hard look at the blatantly obvious - shit happens.
and im not saying that the whole fault of the accident can be attributed to shit, gad, bad luck or whatever, but to me its much more remarkable that an extraordinary event took these brothers out, compared to the squibbling on wildsnow that... they shoulda.... someone mighta.... blah blah.....

they could well have figured they'd done their homework and were golden, who knows.
everyone goes out on days like that, thinking we gots the best possible plans.... and we all can be wrong no matter how right we think we are.
and sometimes we could be totally in the right, and shit mite happen anyways.
that's the chance we all take being alive.

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