Book Review: Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain

February 25, 2009

When Bruce Tremper, Director of the Utah Avalanche Center, came out with the first edition of his book "Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain" it would be safe to say that most of mainstream media and the general population had little concern or care for avalanches. On January 14, 2005 a lot of that changed. It was on that date when a huge avalanche in the adjacent sidecountry of The Canyons Resort cause a frenzy of news stories and speculation that up to 15 people had been caught. A popular sidecountry destination, Dutch Draw has been the site of many close calls, including one that I was witness to. Despite the media and general populous gaining more interest and knowledge of avalanches, albeit superficial and often time incorrect, that was not the reason for Bruce to come out with a Second Edition of Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain. The fact is that Avalanche Safety is a science, one that is continually evolving and the skills and knowledge necessary to keep you safe in the backcountry are being refined each day by pros like Bruce. Review of Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper When comparing this the second edition to the first, there are more than a few changes. For starters the amount of reading went up from 284 pages to 310. With this edition is an expansion in Chapter 10, The Human Factor. Avalanche survival and accidents involve the human factor more than was previously attributed and Tremper dives into a number of personal experiences as well as the Dutch Draw slide and others to cite how the human factors play an even bigger role in an avalanche. Listed below are the factors that Tremper cites along with the number of times they are involved with fatal avalanches from 1990-2000: Overconfidence - 15 Attitude - 12 Group Management - 8 Complacency - 6 Poor Communication - 6 No Error - 6 I like how the book presents a large number of images, charts, illustrations and graphs that add to the learning. If I had a criticism it would be that a number of the charts are dated, like the info above. One of the highlights for me throughout the book are the "Hot Tips" where Tremper often opens up with personal insights, almost like you were taking a class from him and he gave you a "by the way...". I've been in a one day course with Bruce and this is just how he teaches. Of course, reading this book won't make you an avalanche expert like combining it with field experience and on snow classes can, but it's definately worth picking up and reading (and rereading). Buy Now: Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain is not available until March 6, 2009 but can be pre-ordered from

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