The Crested Butte Avalanche Center is now open for the 2012-2013 season! While the first year the CBAC was in operation was 2001, this is our 10th anniversary of becoming “officially” incorporated as a non-profit entity. Since we opened ten years ago the CBAC had grown into a professional forecasting office with a staff of 4 forecasters and a board of directors of 10 local professionals and backcountry enthusiasts with diverse backgrounds. New this year we will be introducing CBAC Ambassadors who will be the extended face of the CBAC out in the backcountry and here in town as well.
Look for the CBAC to be making some changes to our website product this year. The avalanche forecasting community is making a move to become more consistent with what the avalanche danger means and how to determine what the avalanche problem of the day is. Once the main avalanche problem is determined, it is a bit easier to figure out how to manage the risk for that particular day. Not all avalanche problems are created equal, and not all problems should be dealt with in the same way. Hopefully our new format will make it more evident to backcountry users as to what their considerations for the day should be. Of course we will still have days when our complex snowpack dictates that there is more than just one avalanche problem out there!
While things are slow to get rolling with snowfall in the backcountry so far this year it is important to remember that if there is enough snow to play in, there is also enough to create an avalanche. While the current avalanche danger is limited to specific areas (where there is actually accumulated snow!) we have already seen some large and impressive slides earlier this month. In your quest to get your season on track, remember to take the time to pay attention to the snowpack. Not just for today’s avalanche conditions, but for what might evolve for the rest of the season. When we get early season snow, and then long dry periods, the snow tends to “rot” or facet. This faceted snow will create a weak layer near the ground, which will be the supporting snow layer for additional snows to (hopefully) come. With a weak supporting structure we can expect to have an active avalanche season! The good news is that with a lot of bare ground showing out there right now, there is no weak base structure yet in some areas. These might be the best places to play in the coming winter.
With not much quality skiing or riding out there just yet, this is a great time to brush up on your avalanche knowledge. The CBAC, in conjunction with Crested Butte Mountain Guides and the Alpineer will be hosting a “Beacon Brush Up” day on Saturday December 1st. Come on out from 11-3 in the Town Park to learn or practice your beacon skills, demo new avalanche beacons and airbags and get tips from the pros. The Alpineer will host a gathering afterwards from 3-6pm with food and beer as well as special discounts on avalanche gear.
For more information on avalanche danger ratings or avalanche problems, to get the daily avalanche bulletin in the Crested Butte area, to submit your backcountry observations, or to become a sponsor of the Crested Butte Avalanche Center, check out our website www.cbavalanchecenter.org.