Start digging!

By now, storms are piling up, and snow is accumulating, creating layers in the snowpack. When you hear the word “layers,” it’s referring to the different consistencies in the base of snow on the ground. The best way to see these layers is to dig a hasty pit, also called a snow pit or just pit. Digging a four- to six-foot (or as deep as possible) hole creates a cross-section and exposes the snow’s layers.

Pits are used to gain insight to the snowpack; they allow riders to identify the strength-or cohesion-of layers in relation to each other and to locate slabs of snow that might cause an avalanche. A pit alone is not a test of slope stability or safety, however; it’s only a tool for gathering information.-K.H.

Pits should be dug on a similar aspect (slope direction), slope angle, and at a similar elevation as the slope being ridden.

Never dig a pit where you might trigger a slide or put yourself in danger of a slide.

The uphill face of the pit should be vertical and smooth-this is where the layers will be exposed.

(shovel sidebar)

Win A New Collapsible Shovel!

Shovels are for more than building jumps, and in the case of backcountry riding, a shovel might be just what you need to save a friend’s life. E-mail a picture to backcountryguidetws@gmail.com; the shovels will go to the best powder shots that demonstrate smart backcountry riding.

(caption)

A unique view-looking down an Alaskan chute (the valley floor is in the top of the photo) as riders partner up to dig a hasty pit on a dangerous slope. The rope offers protection to the rider in the pit (right) in case of a slide.