One of the most common misconceptions of new students in the avalanche world is that there is a sure-fire way to determine is a slope is safe to ski or not. Many have heard about digging snow pits to look at and test snow structure and think that this must be their silver-bullet to success. In reality it is this myopic mindset that we perpetually beat back as avalanche course instructors, as digging in the snow is just one tool in sorting a much larger puzzle of uncertainty.
The Following was published in Ascent Backcountry Snow Journal. It was getting late, and I was behind schedule, still high on Mt. Nebo as the sun set over the horizon. As it turns out, traversing the ridge past Nebo’s three summits is quite difficult going; it’s deceptively long, serrated by rock and generally not very conducive to travel with a 60 lb. pack, during winter, solo. Seven thousand feet below, one car after the next sped past on I-15, headlights gleaming through t