Logo Jim Frankenfield
jim@mountain-guiding.com; 1-877-604-0166

Mountain Guiding; Mountain Safety
An Experienced Professional

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Guiding Newsletter

January 2000 - Tech Tip Supplement


Snowpit Tips

When digging a snowpit for stability evaluation it is important to consider the location carefully. The points most people consider are whether the snowpit area is representative of a slope they are debating entering and whether the location is safe. Sometimes these two considerations are at odds with each other. Especially when a Rutschblock test is desired since it needs to be on a representative slope angle.

Another thing to consider is whether the snowpit area has been disturbed by skiers, snowboarders, etc. Even though tracks may not be visible it is possible that there are buried tracks through the area which had an effect on underlying layers. I can remember one particular slope in Utah where many people dug snowpits all winter long. It was frequently tracked up and dug up, then buried in new snowfall events. Many profiles there may not have been truly representative.

Finally, it is a good idea to use your sectional probe to check snow depth around the proposed profile area. If you dig in an area of shallow or very uneven snowcover the profile may be quite different than elsewhere. One reason for this is that temperature gradients through the snow are steeper in thin areas. Probing first may also reduce the chances of digging into a pocket of shrubbery where branches will protrude from the snowpit wall.


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