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The Avalanche Handbook 2nd Edition

9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0898863642
ISBN-10: 0898863643
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Editorial Reviews Review

Don't think it couldn't happen to you. Skiers, snowboarders, climbers, and anyone else who travels in the mountains should be aware of the awesome destructive power of avalanches and the conditions that cause them. The Handbook is a comprehensive guide to avoiding such a calamity of snow and ice--and how to improve your chances of survival if you're caught in one. With a combination of science and practical advice, the authors explain how avalanches happen, how to test a slope for slide potential, and how to navigate in avalanche-prone areas. This is essential material for winter recreation fans and outdoors enthusiasts.


The Avalanche Handbook is the uber text in the field of avalanche science. -- Outside Bozeman

Product Details

  • Paperback: 271 pages
  • Publisher: Mountaineers Books; 2nd edition (October 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898863643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898863642
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,463,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Tom Wolfe ( on November 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
For backcountry enthusiasts with a science background, this book provides a thorough introduction to avalanche theory. The book is divided into chapters which build a solid foundation (weather systems, snow structure) through snowpack basics (snow strength and deformation, snowpack structure) and well into more advanced concepts (snowpack analysis, avalanche prediction, search and rescue, and even control with explosives, etc.) It is an excellent, if heavy, read and I found it a valuable resource in the development of an intro avalanche course.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By P. Mulligan on September 24, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you have a significant interest in Avalanche science and theory, or are going to take an avalanche course this is the book for you. If you are looking to create advanced Avy skills and/or to become an Avy professional though this is the definative resource on Avalanches. It is required reading for most courses (starting with avy 1).

I believe that for most recreational readers this book does at times get "heavy". Its easy to lose interest in this book from time to time as the science overcomes the practical. If you are a weekend backcountry traveler and are looking for a book that will keep your attention and teach you how to travel safely in Avy terrain this book is probably a little much. Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper is a much easier read and has all the most important information from this book. Combined with Snow Sense by Doug Fesler the two books are much more digestible for the average reader and a lot more fun as well.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Byrne on January 17, 2008
Color: 9780898868098 Verified Purchase
There is a lot of information in this book, and it's certainly a must have for anyone who wants to be able to make their own decisions about travel in avalanche terrain. That said I think the book fails in two important ways. It fails at explaining the current state of the science behind avalanches, and it fails at giving end users a systematic way to utilize data from snow instability tests.

We get bits and pieces of the science behind avalanches but at a very superficial level. You learn something about the sorts of things scientists think about avalanches without learning the why and wherefore of it. The authors' reluctance to inlude anything that even smells of math turns the science sections into collections of things one might say about avalanche science at a dinner party, but otherwise not very useful when it comes to applying the science to avalanches.
When it comes time for the book to lay out a paradigm for making decisions in avalanche country, we find a confusing mess of very abstract decision schema. Nowhere do we find any specific guidance in using instability tests or snowpack profiles in making decisions. This lack of guidance is exacerbated by the skeptical stance the book takes towards stability tests. We are counseled to pay attention to local conditions, but we are also told that if our tests show a stable snowpack they should be discounted. It's not clear how stability tests could ever yield anything other than a no-go decision given that sort of paradigm, and the book needs to do more to explain how to navigate the grey zone if it to be useful as a handbook for making decisions.
So while this is an indispensable book, it could really use more work, and anyone wanting to understand the contents should probably be ready to dig into the nuts and bolts of the underlying science a bit more using other resources.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ole Bjrsvik on April 14, 2008
Color: 9780898868098
As a reviewer said: the science sounds like something one may say "at a dinner party". - It is well formulated: At first I was impressed by the book, and I found interesting points in it. But when trying to use it as extra literature when reading some micro-meteorology I got deeper into the text; and what looked interesting (or impressive) turned out to become frustrating and embarrassing. In the chapters about heat transfer, radiation and other physical processes in snow there were frequent subsentences and parenthesis that at first seemed to be there to explain or clarify things, but my spontaneous thought when reaching them was "What?! But that is two different things.", or "But that's not right."
After a while I recognized whole subsentences, or even whole sentences, that seemed to have no other reason to be there than to impress and dazzle the reader. It really looked like someone that felt himself undereducated trying to compensate by putting in technical termology that sounds right, or just simple five or six syllable words like "anisotropic" to impress, rather than clarify. As an academician that also ski and move around a lot in avalanche terrain I felt outright embarrassed. Is the style of the text deliberately chosen to dazzle and then scare away the reader? (I was so tired after a couple of hours of studying the text for the good stuff, while navigating around the weird parts that I really had to sit down and relax with a pure scientific paper about snow by Karl W. Birkeland.) - There is lot of good stuff in this book, but it shouldn't be put in such high regard for it's "science" as most readers and reviewers seem to do. The science seems to end up "not right" too often. Where the author would have been completely right without the frequent attempts to be over-precise.
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