Where am I? This is the amalgamation of the nations foremost alpine safety platforms Snowsafety.com.au and Snowsense.org. We have joined forces not only with the goal of delivering a more streamlined and concise picture of the conditions, in one single easy view, but we are also a legal entity as a not-for-profit association. There will be more news about this in the immediate short term. Stay Tuned.
We issued 13 days of Blizzard (extreme) warnings and only really 16 days of 'Blue Bird' in three months. That all adds up to a long cold and notably foggy season. A distinct pattern of 'stupid' wet prefrontal events would see snowpack levels dip from 1m to 70cm and back to 1m in the space of 48hrs.
Interestingly this season saw the issuing of 'considerable' avalanche warnings four times between July and the September, within this region. The mid August event was 'code amber' for 63 hrs. The longest on our record. Such a prolonged active weakness, at a depth of 20/35 cm as recorded across the range, was unprecedented (we have only been actively watching for 2 years though). The scale of a human triggered slide would have certainly been very dangerous, likely fatal. And thankfully nobody tested this safety margin, and nobody was caught. On paper 2014 claimed 4 lives from avalanches (also unprecedented) and on record that season had the equivalent of only one 'considerable' avalanche danger period which was only active for less than 24 hours. So wether the success of an incident free 2016 is just chance, or actually a better awareness of avoiding hazards we'll never know really .
The site reached an audience of between 200 and 300 people per week on average during the winter season. This spikes to 600 leading into and during snow precip events, double this with our social media posts. So to all of you, who are checking in, awesome. Big thanks firstly in Victoria to Bill Barker and the patrol team at Hotham for the 'first in the field' stability warnings - great work team. In NSW a massive shout out to PWS and specifically Ken Green. Also to the team at MRBC for great and very specific intel. To the community contributions and the Avy pros who chimed in when you had the chance, massive thanks to all. And to our sponsors... oh , hang on. we don't have any. Snowsense is 300hrs of volunteer resource over 250+ days of observations and delivery for you guys, the 6000 skiers, splitters, climbers and snow-shoers who dropped by.
The site is an Alpine Travel Advisory, we issue information regarding alpine travel safety across all aspects of the prevailing conditions (from 1 June - 31st October ). This includes firstly the weather, by observation and predictions, and the effect the weather has on the snow pack. In Australia this ranges from 'Bulletproof' hard ice, through to loose snow and the associated avalanche danger. We also report on wet snow conditions and the potential for 'wet slides'. Occasionally when out 'intel' is really good we are 'predictive', only when we have a really good hunch about the state of the range.
The rate of incidents in which individuals or entire parties become overwhelmed by the alpine conditions was increasing year on year. Not that conditions are necessarily worsening. Simply more people are heading 'out', and potentially, collectively less prepared.
The winter of 2014 showed an alarming increase in incidents across the range. In the North East alone 5 parties became overwhelmed by the conditions and requiring rescues from remote areas by PSAR / ASAR alone. Unfortunately two people lost their lives in an avalanche event. For each rescue, teams of more than 30 people are assembled. All remote alpine rescues involve rescuers engaging in difficult and dangerous operations. As a testament to their training and ability they have a strong success rate. Yet in reality, the less 'call-outs' the better.
What we do: We deliver up to date advice specifically on snow conditions that anyone travelling into unpatrolled alpine environments should consider in regards to their travel safety. Wether you are on skis, snowboard, snowshoes or trusty old walking boots, the advisory delivers info on what snow conditions to expect, and any relevant safety precautions to consider when travelling in snow bound terrain.
How we do it: SnowSense.org.au harnesses a network of specialists with vast experience in interpreting snow and weather conditions and potential hazards. The core network consists of Ski Patrol organisations from the relevant alpine areas, Meteorological sources and an 'In the field' network based on voluntary observations. It is admittedly an ambitious project. In our first season we will be conducting a series of surveys with the aim of measuring the degree of correlation between storm events and resulting snowpack across the range. No small task. This will ultimately help us better understand the degree of accuracy with which we are reporting. Our first season will be a trial run. Not to discount the information supplied, simply to say that until we have conducted a survey we have not enough evidence to say that an observation in any given location is consistent to a radius of 50m or 50km.
Delivery: The advisory will be reviewed and updated on a 48hr rolling schedule and delivered via the web URL www.snowsense.org.au. We also deliver the advisory on social media via users following each region (Vic Central / Vic North East / Snowy Mnts NSW) on Facebook or Instagram. Issuing specific alerts as they come to hand.
Upcoming Content: SnowSense.org.au will also have a bunch of helpful information available handed on by experts in snow craft and survival from Police search and rescue, snowpack assessment tips particular to Australian conditions via ski patrollers and a lot of background on how to travel safely in the Australian Alps during winter.