Bruce Jamieson


Bruce Jamieson started hauling toboggans and doing avalanche control for a ski area with an understaffed forecasting program in 1985. After six winters with ski areas, he started graduate work on avalanche research at the University of Calgary to focus on field studies, especially snowpack tests. So began the ASARC program. As a professor of Civil Engineering from 1997 to 2015, the ASARC team’s research included the propagation saw test, crack propagation, spatial variability, avalanche vulnerability and risk, climate trends, forecasting for deep slab avalanches, quick field observations for localizing avalanche danger, as well as stress below skiers and snowmobiles. When not mountain biking or skiing, he now works as an avalanche consultant and educator. He remains passionate about communicating avalanche science broadly through presentations, videos, and (hopefully) readable articles.

Topic of Presentation

Field observations and snowpack tests – which is best when? 

In his early years, Werner Munter advocated that a snowpack test (Rutschkeil) should be done before skiing a slope. Then some false stable results convinced him backcountry recreationists should not do snowpack tests. Some research has since suggested that quick field observations are more valuable for backcountry decisions than snowpack tests. And snowpack tests play little or no role in some research-based decision aids such as the 3 x 3, Golden Rule or Avaluator. Alternatively, some researchers have argued that the results of snowpack tests are key for no-go decisions but not applicable for decisions to go onto an avalanche slope. Bruce will briefly review the research, then facilitate a hopefully lively discussion on the role of snowpack tests and field observations for selecting terrain in the backcountry.

How does isolating a small column stability test compare to sled or skier stress? 

Human triggered avalanches begin when the stress under a person (skier, snowboarder or snowmobile) starts a fracture in a weak layer. Similarly, the tapping on a small column test such as the compression test starts a fracture in a weak layer. One important difference is that the stress under a skier or snowmobile spreads out whereas the stress cannot spread out in a compression test of an isolated column. Bruce will present the results of Scott’s Thumlert’s research showing the stress – and hence fracturing of weak layers – depends strongly on ski or snowmobile penetration (or how much snow is removed) and whether or not a column of the snowpack is isolated. The presence of stiff layers including melt-freeze crusts also affects results, e.g. small column tests often fracture a weak layer under a crust but a snowmobiler or skier cannot trigger the layer where snowpack conditions are similar. The larger dimension of the Extended Column Test reduces the effective depth of tapping.

Diana Saly


Diana Saly is a Master’s student in the Snow and Avalanche Lab at Montana State University. Her research focuses on compaction (skier, snowmobile, etc.) as it relates to snowpack stability. Diana also has a BSc in Mathematics and a BA in Philosophy from the University of New Hampshire. Diana got into snow and avalanches while ski patrolling in the dependably faceted Canadian Rockies, and spent a few winter seasons in New Zealand and Australia. Most recently, she has worked with Avalanche Canada on the Yukon Field Team. In the summers, Diana fights wildfires in British Columbia.

Topic of Presenation

Using Time-Lapse Photography to Monitor Avalanche Terrain

Winter recreation in mountainous terrain has noticeably increased in recent years. Ski resorts can provide relatively easy access to backcountry terrain and such areas can witness high skier usage and avalanche occurrences. A digital camera in weatherproof housing is a relatively low cost, low maintenance tool used to monitor high-use avalanche terrain. This technology can be useful to first responders in avalanche emergencies and can also be used for research: to study terrain use by backcountry users, natural avalanche cycles in remote terrain, and characteristics of start zones.

A time-lapse camera was installed at the Bridger Bowl Ski Area for the 2015-2016 winter season. The camera was positioned to capture skier use on Saddle Peak, backcountry terrain accessed via the ski area. On January 14, 2016 a remotely triggered avalanche and responsible party were capture by the camera. Diana will share a selection of images captured by the camera and present findings when skier usage is correlated with slope angle, aspect, and avalanche hazard.

Dr. Terry O'Connor


Over the preceding decades Terry O’Connor’s passion and enthusiasm for outside adventures have lead to a diverse set of roles: Ski Patroller. Rural Ambulance EMT. Bike guide. Expedition Manager. Emergency Physician. High Altitude Mountaineer. Ultra-marathoner. National Park Service Climbing Ranger. Ski Mountaineering Racer. Expedition Doc. High Altitude Researcher. Everest climber, Firefighter,  … and a few more. 

Currently, Terry is an emergency physician, EMS Director, and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine for the University of Colorado. A professional member of the American Avalanche Association, Terry is also a regular volunteer for the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center and has contributed to the field with abstracts at the International Snow Science Workshop and in articles at the Avalanche Review. He is a wilderness medicine and avalanche educator, serving as a course director for the Diploma in Mountain Medicine with the Wilderness Medical Society.  Terry is based in Sun Valley, Idaho but as a frequent traveller, has continued to provide care in a wide range of austere environments: from the mountains of the Tibet Plateau down to the coastal rain forests of Borneo.

Topic of Presentation

Not Dead Yet . .

The avalanche community has done an excellent job of emphasizing the importance of companion avalanche rescue. Indeed this is an appropriate recommendation as evidence shows the best chance of survival occurs within the first thirty minutes of burial.

As an unintended consequence of this emphasis, however, professional rescuers sometimes find themselves resigned that response to a prolonged burial victim will be an inevitable body recovery.

In a review of the latest evidence and in presenting a growing body of remarkable case reports, we will highlight that prolonged burial does not necessarily mean no survival, but perhaps anywhere from 5-20% chance of survival. Interestingly, this is in range with the survival statistics with another common phenomenon, cardiac arrest. The rhetorical question, and perhaps challenge, therefore seems intuitive: if we as emergency responders have an urgency to act in full faith to a chance of survival in cardiac arrest should we not also grant the same urgency to the avalanche victim?

Appreciating this, we will then dig deeper into the latest evidence based guidelines on avalanche victim care. We will learn what victims actually have a chance at survival and  how to identify them. Special modifications to routine life support in avalanche victim resuscitation will be reviewed so that we can give them the best care possible.

It turns out that some of those who we recover looking dead, . . may not be dead yet. 

Todd Wharton


Stay tuned...

Topic of Presentation

Todd will discuss an avalanche fatality incident that he was involved with in 2008. The incident occurred in Canyon Creek, just outside the Whitefish Mountain Resort boundary. 

Erich Peitzsch


Erich is the Director of the Flathead Avalanche Center, the lead forecaster for the USGS/GNP Going-to-the-Sun Road Avalanche Program in Glacier National Park, and a Physical Scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in West Glacier, MT. He is also currently working on his PhD in Snow Science at Montana State Univeristy. Before moving to northwest Montana, he completed his Masters of Science in Snow Science at Montana State University in Bozeman in 2009. He has presented at numerous International Snow Science Workshops and regional professional development workshops throughout western North America. Erich started his professional avalanche career working as a professional ski patroller alongside the great avalanche hunters at Alpine Meadows in Lake Tahoe, CA . He was also a lead instructor with Outward Bound in California and Colorado. Erich is a Certified Instructor and professional member with the American Avalanche Association and has completed an AIARE Level 3 Continuing Professional Development course. When not working in the snow, you just may find him dressed up as a superhero chasing his two young sons around, running and climbing in the mountains, and eating copious amounts of ice cream.

Topic of Presentation

Erich will discuss the previous season at the Flathead Avalanche Center and changes for the upcoming season.