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Where and when does a situation go bad? It's easy to think that an accident is the result of a single bad decision. But as Laura Maguire tells it, to understand an accident, which can be read as a failure of decision making, you really need to examine the systemic influences and the progression of choices that led up to that pivotal moment, because…
 
A lifetime ago, back in 1981, Brad Meiklejohn was ski-bumming and working at Alta when he witnessed a full-depth avalanche on High Rustler. It was mesmerizing, and it changed his path in life. He went on to study snow and avalanches on the East Coast, moved back out West and joined what was then known as the Utah Avalanche Forecast Center. His life…
 
After five years of hosting the podcast, Drew Hardesty was curious about the mindset of the young guns just now cutting their teeth and testing themselves in very real, very consequential ski mountaineering terrain. Is the old guard wasting their time wagging their tongues and fingers about the dangers of backcountry travel while the youth just rol…
 
In the winter of 2002-03, 14 people were killed in a pair of large avalanches in British Columbia. Those horrific tragedies spurred Canada’s national parks agency to find ways to better insure public safety in the winter mountains. That’s where Grant Statham comes in. An accomplished mountain guide and avalanche forecaster, Grant led the developmen…
 
It’s been said that culture eats training for breakfast. In other words, you can take all the classes, read all the books, develop a fool-proof checklist and a dialed-in system, but when the snow falls, and when a social animal enters a high-risk environment, all that education and preparation can go right out the window. AMGA/IFMGA mountain guide …
 
At first glance, financial advising and heli-skiing might not seem to have much if anything in common. But, think about it like this: Both take on clients who put a lot of money on the line, they put a lot of trust in their guides, and there are some heavy costs to getting it wrong. This time around we’re joined by Ronna Cohen, a financial adviser …
 
In the spring of 1971, Don Bachman walked into the mining town of Silverton, Colorado, with a mission, not quite from God, but from the federal government: Study avalanches in the San Juan Mountains. The Bureau of Reclamation had recently established a cloud-seeding program in the region, and it was Bachman’s job—as part of a veritable ‘Murderers R…
 
On the morning of February 6, two different groups totaing eight people went to ski in the Wilson Glade area of Alexander Basin in Millcreek Canyon. Both groups were ascending when the avalanche happened. Six people were caught and fully buried. Two of them survived. Four did not. In this episode, we break down what happened in this tragic accident…
 
In this episode, we sit down with Dr. Scott McIntosh and Black Diamond's Andy Merriman to talk about, well first, good decision making, but then, in the event you get caught in an avalanche, how and why an airbag can potentially help you avoid the worst consequences. In particular, we're taking about BD's innovative JetForce Pro Avalanche Airbag. A…
 
Jeff Hambleton works with avalanche professionals from around the world and across disciplines to build avalanche education tools and train the next generation. In this episode: connecting to your audience; culture-shift after the Valentine’s Day slide of ‘99 at Mt Baker and the Danny Woods avalanche of 2008; effecting deeper change through social …
 
Dr. Angela Dunn is the State Epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health. In this episode: messaging the problem as you're learning about it; public safety and risk guidelines; cascading risks; marketing problems; the risk/reward balancing act; the single overriding communications objective; effecting behavior change; sticky messaging; culture…
 
Sarah Carpenter is a co-owner of the American Avalanche Institute and a ski guide in the Tetons. In this episode: Giving backcountry users the keys to the castle; the evolution of avalanche education; snow science as equal parts science and voodoo magic; education vs air bag; checklists and systems for safety; sharing stories when you get it wrong;…
 
During the day, Jenna Malone is a physicians assistant, but she moonlights as a ski patroller at Alta, a Powderbird guide, and an instructor with AAI. At this fall's Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop, she gave a compelling presentation on why avalanche decision making is more like poker than chess. The difference is in the levels of certainty and th…
 
It's key to head into the early avalanche season with the proper mindset. In this podcast, we talk with UAC program director Bo Torrey. Bo talks about particular risks unique to the early season, tips and tricks for knocking the rust off your early season rescue skills, and charts out the path forward to avalanche education.…
 
On Saturday, January 5, the danger rating in the Salt Lake area went Low. As you'd expect, people got out after it. By the end of the day there were eight skier-triggered avalanches, with four people caught and carried in separate events, and one visit to the ER. In this episode, we put one of those accidents under the microscope and examine how th…
 
In this episode, we sit down with Lynne Wolfe. Lynne is a longtime mountain guide for both Exum and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. She has taught innumerable avalanche courses for AAI, NOLS, and Yostmark and since 2005 she's been the editor of The Avalanche Review. Discussed in this episode: articles that have helped save lives; Ed LaChapelle's "asc…
 
All the way from Alaska, Eeva Latosuo and Aleph Johnston-Bloom join Drew to talk about their research on the mentoring network that undergirds so much of the avalanche and snow science community. Discussed in this episode: what a mentorship is; how to find a mentor; who's mentoring who; why mentoring; how information passes through the mentoring tr…
 
In this podcast, we sit down with none other than Ian McCammon. Ian holds a PhD in mechanical engineering with an emphasis on robotics and sensory development and his avalanche research has focused on safety education, fracture mechanics, and the human factor. Discussed in this episode: The Carruthers Incident (’95); ALPTRUTh; Lemons; FACETS; burie…
 
Alex Hamlin is a partner at the marketing firm 7D8, and the former creative director at Black Diamond. Alex says that he works to create meaning, not content. He joins Drew to discuss: the power of stories; the critical importance of messaging; influencing behavior; honesty; the messenger's credibility; democratizing avalanche information; riding o…
 
Jake Hutchinson was a long-time patroller and snow safety director at the Park City resort formerly known as Park West, Wolf Mountain, and The Canyons. He's also lead-avalanche instructor for the American Avalanche Institute. He joins Drew to talk about the risks and rewards of managing avalanche risk for the resort-skiing public. Discussed in this…
 
Dave Richards, director of snow safety at Alta Ski Resort, joins us to kick off another season of UAC Podcast interviews. This time, he and host Drew Hardesty discuss the stigma of trauma--"PTSD"--in the avalanche and mountain communities. Discussed in this episode: the message and the messenger; facing off with death; traumatic stress injuries; co…
 
Something new to kick off Season 2 of the UAC Podcast. Throughout the season, host Drew Hardesty is delving into his deep catalog of UAC blog entries for stories and words of wisdom to keep in mind when you light out for the backcountry. For starters, a story about one backcountry skier forced to cope with the guilt of multiple avalanche involvemen…
 
In this podcast, we talk with long time Utah Avalanche Center pro observer Mark White. Mark grew up in the Wasatch Range and is one of the last true self-described "ski bums". We talked about a 2002 avalanche when Mark and his girlfriend Marla rescued and recovered a lone and fully buried skier in a debris pile near the Cardiac Ridge; the intricaci…
 
Don Sharaf has the run the gauntlet of a 30-year career on snow. He's a co-owner of American Avalanche Institute and has taught avalanche and mountaineering courses for the past 25 years. He's also worked as a heli-ski guide and avalanche forecaster in Alaska for more than a decade. In other words, he's got enough mileage in the mountains to have l…
 
Retired UAC forecaster and Jenny Lake climbing ranger Tom Kimbrough has spent a lifetime in the mountains. He attributes his ability to survive his adventures to one thing: Luck. We discussed his thinking about a lifetime of risk exposure, what it's like now seeing his only son climbing and skiing at the highest levels, and what role Buddhism has p…
 
In December, 2008, Matt Clevenger was caught in an avalanche in the Wasatch Mountains and buried him six feet under. Luckily, one of his partners that day, Tom Diegel, reacted quickly, led decisively, and helped save Clevenger's life. Discussed in the podcast: the life-and-death risks of backcountry skiing; mentoring and finding a mentor; moving fo…
 
Anna Keeling has been a fully certified IFMGA guide since 2002. She is a highly sought after educator and trainer for aspiring mountain guides. Discussed in this episode: the "systems approach" of risk management to backcountry ski guiding; managing avalanche risk; what it takes to become a ski guide; detailed preparation for a backcountry tour, in…
 
In this episode, we talk with Bill Nalli, Utah Department of Transportation Avalanche Program supervisor, about keeping the Greatest Snow on Earth from avalanching over the open roads. Topics discussed: managing avalanche potential in Little Cottonwood Canyon; avalanche mitigation tools (105mm Howitzers) from WWII to the Wasatch backcountry; Avalan…
 
Special guest, Jim Steenburgh AKA Professor Powder, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah and author of the book THE GREATEST SNOW ON EARTH. The weather triangle of precipitation, wind, and temperature/solar radiation; weather is the architect of the snowpack; seasonal variations in weather patterns; local effects that impact …
 
Utah Avalanche Center forecaster Drew Hardesty and Alta Snow Safety Director Dave Richards revisit the fateful events of November 13, 2011, the Day of Madness in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It was an early-season powder day in the Wasatch, and people's lust for epic snow encountered the dangerous realities of considerable avalanche danger, with deadl…
 
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