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Jan 21 2014

Prepping for “Can You Dig It?”

Yesterday was setup day. Time to set up the scenario for the EarnYourTurns shoveling competition, to be held at Solitude ski resort at 1pm on January 21st during On Snow Demo day of Outdoor Retailer’s Winter 2014 show. The purpose of the shoveling competition is to draw attention to our collective need to practice this oft avoid part of avalanche preparedness.

After burying five dummies to be excavated 24 hours later, I can assure you, you don’t want to have to dig that far down to get someone out. A report by Pascal Hagaeli indicates data we’ve been passing from on Brugger and Falk is more optimistic than it should be. In powder snow with no trees or trauma you might have an 80% survival chance up to 18 minutes. According to Canadian data, when you include avalanches in maritime ranges the 18 minutes drops to around 10 minutes. Even if you’re good with a beacon, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for digging.

The original goal of the scenario was to bury full dummies 1½ meters deep (about 5 feet). There wasn’t enough, manually moveable snow to go much deeper than 2½ feet. Call it 90 centimeters. The snow we backfilled in the burial spots with was good old fashioned berm-crete. The stuff the plow pushes around, sort of like avy debris after it has tumbled for a few hundred vertical feet. It was frozen pretty solid so we chopped it down to smaller chunks and stomped it a bit to give a more consistent, chunkily dense debris pile without being froze bermcrete. Each of the dummies is a simple Lincoln log man with a 3-foot torso of lodgepole pine and a single leg of elm with a ski boot and ski attached.

Today, five teams of three will see who has the strongest, smartest team with the best tools for the job. How competitive will this be? Bruce Edgerly, VP of Marketing and Sales for Backcounty Access and a hockey player summed up BCA’s attitude when he said, “We’re bringing home the cup.” BCA will be squaring off against Arva, Black Diamond, Cascade Designs, and Ortovox. It promises to be a close race.

Frankly, I’m expecting some carnage in the tool department. To bury the dummies we used some steel bladed gardening shovels, and an Ortovox Alu Pro 2.7, to hoe down and rake under the bermcrete to get the dummy as deep as we could. The steel blades were invaluable for breaking up the bermcrete into manageable chunks that we raked into position with the snowhoes and stomped and chopped with the steel blades. If that stuff sets up like what it came from, some aluminum blades will be crying the blues. I’m bringing my steel blade as back up.

Look for results late this evening on what team won.

© 2014