South-Coast seen here). Taking a step further, advanced users have a forecast details section to read up on, detailing the avalanche report, all of which have been there for years. However, with today's blogosphere and social media networking a new Forecaster's Blog has been put in place to further educate anyone who has an extra minute or two, specifically on understanding the current conditions in the field, and gaining even more insight to the world of snow science. The information based solely off the CAC is gold for anyone looking to head out into the mountains, and avoid avalanche's. And last but not least it's all been packaged into one easy app to download onto your mobile phone.
However, approximately 40% of avalanche incidents go unreported on websites such as the Canadian and/or American Avalanche Association's Incident Database, but do show up on the likes of webpages and social media sites such as Facebook. As a matter of fact, more useful information on rescue from these non-reported incidents found on Facebook have even been utilized by National Avalanche Organizations in order to build better teaching tools and techniques. But for the main point that needs to be made is that these are tools which have not fully reached their potential. Due to the sharing capability, ease of access, and real-time updates, not to mention field accessible on any mobile phone these days, Facebook and other real-time microblogging web products such as Twitter are new possible ways of passing on information.
|(Photo Above: Avalanche investigation in the Baja area, discovering what lead up to a widespread avalanche cycle, in order to gain a better idea of what''s going on in the snowpack, and how to avoid getting caught for the rest of the week)|
But what's Facebook and Twitter without something to look at, other than posted photos of avalanche observations which may be relevant? Snow profiles can very easily be shared with Avalanche Lab. Avalanche Lab is an app built for the Iphone, that allows users to record all your observations, record your snow profile and then email it in either jpg or pdf to anyone of your choice, even post it on Social Media sites.
|(Photo Above: A quick snow profile a friend and I dug using the Avalanche Lab App, which has since seen even more updates with the new snow symbols and much more.)|
Web forums have definitely had a heavy presence in today's ski scene, to note two of the largest is TetonGravityResearch.com and Biglines.com. Both hold ski and snowboard reports, avalanche info posts, and more, all with potentially viable useful information that can be scanned on a smartphone and during the downtime in the coffee shop heading to the mountains in the morning. They do lack a "professional filter" but have useful information when users properly note occurrences.
|(Photo Above: The Bridger-Teton Avalanche mapping system, a notable event with info and photos)|
The Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center has combined a few of these things together along with some other very useful info. Along with collecting field observations from trained backcountry skiers and posting them on their up to date observations section, they have also incorporated everything into a Google Maps event map (seen above). The map displays all notable avalanche events, snow profiles (with graph), and all weather plots for a very easy visual idea of what's going on in the field. Users are even able to change the date ranges in order to bring up past information, and get a strong handle on the history of the snowpack and area, before heading out in the field. They even have links to maps which are downloadable for field reference on your Smartphone in PDF format that have avalanche hazard area marked on well used trails (seen here).
Canada is also on top of this Google Maps technology, many guiding and heli-ski operations are utilizing Google Maps for run mapping. But one interesting useful mapping technology is the ArFi mapping software currently in development and research (so take note, errors may exist). The system takes info from every weather product available, snow pillow, webcam, etc, in order to help Forecasters get a better idea of what meteorological effects throughout the day will effect the snowpack and where along with the use of GEM maps (Geographic Earth Mapping). Not so much a public tool, but very useful in the trip planning portion of the day, and for deciding where the best snow quality will be found.
|(Photo Above: Using the ArFi mapping program looking at precipitation moving into the Sea To Sky Corridor. The Green being 0-10mm of precip, Yellow being 10-20mm, and Orange 20-40mm)|
And if that amount of snow science products wasn't enough, there's even more, including an Excel spreadsheet called SWarm. SWarm is spreadsheet designed to help calculate and estimate the affect that solar radiation will have on the snowpack on any given day, in relationship to location in the world, cloud cover, elevation, slope angle, and days since the last snowfall. Download it here.
There is far more to the mountains other than snow science and weather. Iphone technology is even beautiful rigged for backcountry skiers to purchase a $7.99 app which gives them complete access to maps of any area, and allows them to plot reference points, in order to navigate through any kind of terrain. A GPS at any gear supplier will cost $80 and up, and usually require you to purchase most of your maps for use on the GPS. The only argument that I've heard is on multi-day trips most people can't recharge an Iphone, that is if they don't have a Goal Zero or any other solar charger. However, it should be used in addition to maps and compass as you can never beat the old schools methods for reliability in storms and for if you run out of juice and need to navigate immediately.
with review and info) and Spot Connect devices are the ultimate to have along with their snow science apps. GPS and map information is readily available for those who want it, and allow you to find your way home while of course recording your ascent and descent for your Facebook profile update at the end of the day. This alone, if many people who became lost in areas had had this technology, may not have spent uncomfortable nights cold in the mountains. Even if they had, they would have been able to Google or text someone to find out how to dig a snowcave, and been far more comfortable while waiting for Search And Rescue.
There has even been the question of the possibility of putting beacon technology to use finding cell phones, which is a long ways a way. But the idea has sparked research on Search And Rescue Technology using a Geolocation Satellite System called Galileo, to begin working on it in Europe. The idea is to use a specialized software and cellphone location function, to create an accuracy that Search And Rescue can use when called into a scene. That being said, the beacon is still here for a long long time, as once analog beacons are finally taken off market, the digital beacon will rise further in their capabilities and range but is still the most important thing for backcountry skiers to carry in the mountains.
The point that gets across is that there is a large potential for information sharing throughout the entire backcountry community. Mobile technology in the backcountry world needs a push, as the ability to share and communicate is there with technology that exists, it only needs to be better adapted to our needs as backcountry users. And even if you don't embrace social media, you can at least pull out your cell phone for a whole bunch of other useful pieces of information, or at even the most basic look up a plentiful amount of information on the internet before heading out.