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Probe-Based Avalanche Forecasting Device: Measures Snowpack, Predicts Slides

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A new kind of device is about to hit the mountain, and it looks to be a powerful tool in the avalanche safety quiver.

Called the AvaTech SP1, it comes mounted on the top of a probe and measures snowpack structure, slope angle, and aspect. It geo-tags it all within seconds.

The device works by measuring pressure changes as it is pressed slowly through the snowpack. This information is output as a graph that can be used to assess avalanche risk at the site.

The information can then be shared instantly with others through a Bluetooth connection to smartphones, spreading the word quickly of safe or dangerous snowpack conditions.

The concept provides results similar to manually digging a snow pit, but in a fraction of the time, the company states.

Developed in partnership with experts at The American Institute For Avalanche Research And Education (AIARE), Forest Service National Avalanche Center, Heli-Ski U.S. Association, and Matchstick Productions, the SP1 will hit the market this fall.

We expect that the AvaTech SP1 will become a common tool among snow professionals like avalanche forecasters, ski patrollers, guides and very serious big mountain riders.

With a retail price of $2,249 (pre-order price of $1,499, exclusively for snow professionals), it’s not a casual investment.

But for those whose lives rely on accurate avalanche forecasts, this is a major development.

Casual users of the backcountry will likely also benefit from more timely, accurate forecasting made possible by the technology.

“If I want to track a weak layer throughout different elevations, across different aspects or over time, I can use the SP1 to basically confirm presence and absence of these layers, which gives me a much better handle on how widespread a particular avalanche problem may be,” said Brian Lazar, director at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Watch for updates on this developing technology as it’s applied by backcountry professionals this winter.

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