Can we use Artificial Intelligence for Avalanche Forecasting?
Even the best forecasters only reach about 75% accuracy in their avalanche predictions. After all, they are only human. One of the greatest challenges is in the fact that avalanche danger cannot be precisely measured or communicated. It is, therefore, a matter of expert assessment and opinion by humans.
Last season the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research successfully tested a first-of-its-kind, artificial intelligence computer program to assist in its avalanche forecasts. The SLF is a world leader in the field of avalanche forecasting and pushes the boundaries of avalanche forecasting methods.
A Seward Highway avalanche closed the road for much of the day Friday. It was between Bird Creek and the Portage turnoff. The avalanche severed the only road access between Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula for more than eight hours.
British Columbia is rolling out the artillery and bombs for avalanche bombing. There have been closures on some major roads for the first time in decades as the province grapples with record snowfall and rain.
The province uses helicopter avalanche bombing, remote-triggered explosives, and howitzers to keep roads open. But nonetheless critical routes to Vancouver are being disrupted by avalanche control.
WATERTON PARK, AB – A Waterton townsite avalanche resulted in a close call in Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.
This past weekend a class-4 avalanche roared down Bertha Peak. Which is just outside the small resort community.
The avalanche dumped 10 metres of debris on the Bertha Falls trail and stopped just ahead of Evergreen Avenue South. Entry to the town using that street past Cameron Falls is not recommended due to the risk of further avalanches.
Additionally, the Akamina Parkway is closed until further notice. Pedestrian access on Akamina and Red Rock parkways remains open. The parkway will reopen to vehicles when conditions improve.
Fortunately, no injuries were reported, and no structures were damaged. The risk of avalanches, and another townsite avalanche, has increased significantly in the park. This is due to large snow falls, extreme wind gusts and rising temperatures.
The family of Peter Marshall, who was killed in an avalanche during an AIARE advanced avalanche safety class with the Silverton Avalanche School, has dropped the school and teacher from their lawsuit. It appears that a settlement was reached. A complaint remains open against Backcountry Access, their owner K2 Sports, and K2 owner Kohlberg & Company.
Last month the family dropped its claims against the county, school and guide. Attorneys for the Marshall family have not returned calls or responded to emails and representatives from the county and school declined to comment, indicating a settlement amount was most likely agreed upon.
The family had argued that the school and guide had misled Marshall into taking the class by “falsely presenting” that school staff “possessed deep operational experience in avalanche terrain.” The family also claimed the school and guide displayed “gross negligence.”
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) report pointed to several mistakes during the advanced class, including a group of skiers gathered on a slope steep enough to slide, those skiers misjudging the steepness of that slope and a failure to recognize clear avalanche hazards. The guide triggered the first avalanche, which swept the whole group down the slope. A second avalanche buried Marshall under several feet of snow.
The family of the 40-year-old Longmont skier is still suing K2 Sports and its subsidiary Backcountry Access, which makes an air bag backpack that was not deployed when rescuers found Marshall buried in more than 8 feet of avalanche debris. “Peter Marshall attempted to trigger his Float 32 avalanche air bag system but it did not fully deploy or inflate,” according to the complaint filed in Boulder District Court.
A skier was killed in an avalanche Saturday, December 11, in Silver Basin, a closed area of Crystal Mountain, Washington, that ski patrol had not mitigated for avalanche hazard. Six skiers from the same party were caught in the slide. Four skiers were partially or fully buried, three of whom were successfully recovered. The fourth skier was found unconscious and did not respond to resuscitation efforts. All skiers involved were carrying avalanche equipment and several had taken a recent avalanche course.
Avalanche fences are being installed in Park City, Utah despite a petition to halt the construction. However, the petition appears to be to irrelevant now, since the construction of the avalanche barriers are underway.
Iron Mountain Associates plans to install 214 avalanche fences. The avalanche fences are three to four meters tall and under construction in The Colony neighborhood. The avalanche barriers aim to prevent an avalanche from hitting the driveway of two specific homes.
An out-pour of community outrage has ensued since the county approved the project in 2020. Despite the community opposition, the construction of the fences is now underway.
While avalanche fences are effective, professionals feel there are better options. Alternatives exist which do not cause as much harm to wildlife and do not create extreme visual degradation.