Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, 3rd Edition

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain

Published by Mountaineers Books, Aug. 10, 2018
By Bruce Tremper
ISBN: 978-1-68051-138-3

The more you know about snow stability, the better your travel and rescue skills. And the sharper your decision making, the better you’ll be able to avoid avalanche danger and have more fun in the winter backcountry.


In Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, 3rd Edition, acclaimed snow and avalanche expert Bruce Tremper provides easy-to-understand avalanche safety tips and skills, including the latest snow research and techniques for evaluating snowpack, as well how to rescue companions in the event of an avalanche.


Other topics include:

  • How to evaluate terrain and decide whether it’s safe or dangerous
  • How avalanches work
  • How to test snow stability
  • How to control your exposure and lower your risk
  • Safe travel techniques
  • What to do if you’re caught in an avalanche
  • Search-and-rescue strategies
  • Managing the human factors that contribute to accidents

This fully revised and updated third edition of Bruce’s best-selling book is organized according to the structure of American Avalanche Association classes, and all topics have been updated and reviewed by peer experts. This edition also features a wholly new chapter in which Bruce pulls all the pieces together to create an organized, step-by-step system for making decisions off, and on, the mountain.


As Rocky Mountain News proclaimed, “No one who plays in the mountain snow should leave home without having studied this book.” Clear, comprehensive, and engaging, Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain shares everything skiers, snowboarders, and other backcountry travelers need to know to stay safe in the mountains.

Utah Avalanche Center says this is one “of the best books to get you started and to re-read every winter.”

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Companion to “Avalanche Essentials: A Step-by-Step System for Safety and Survival.”

Avalanche Pocket Guide: A Field Reference
Published by: Mountaineers Books, Sept., 2014
By Bruce Tremper
ISBN: 978-1-59485-719-5

• Full-color fold-out guide with the most critical “quick info” that skiers, snowboarders, and other mountain enthusiasts need while in the winter backcountry


• Carry-along complement to Tremper’s best-selling “Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain” and “Avalanche Essentials: A Step-by-Step System for Safety and Survival”


The Avalanche Pocket Guide includes quick and visual safety reminders: the 5 As and 2 Cs to consider when evaluating avalanche terrain; the trusty Tremper Terrain-o-Meter; a snowpack stability checklist; quick review of snowpack stability tests, low-risk travel ritual; a gear checklist; Avalanche Smart Card graphic that pulls it all together; beacon search tips; and more.

[Note the inclinometer on the side of the pocket guide.]


Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain: How I Discovered I Wasn’t an Avalanche Expert
Mountaineers Books Blog, January 9, 2019


Recently retired, Bruce spent nearly 30 years at the Utah Avalanche Center, most of those years as its Director. Following is an excerpt from the introduction to the new edition of Staying Alive, in which Bruce explains how as a young hot-shot ski racer he learned that he wasn’t as smart as he thought he was.


By Bruce Tremper


It was November 1978. I was a cocky, ex-national-circuit ski racer, twenty-four years old, fresh out of college, and because I needed the money, I was building chairlifts at Bridger Bowl Ski Area in Montana. In the ignorance and vigor of youth, I naturally enough considered myself to be an avalanche expert. I had grown up in the mountains of western Montana, where my father had taught me about avalanches when I was ten years old, and I had been skiing in the backcountry the past several years and had so far avoided any serious mishaps. In other words, I was a typical avalanche victim.


I was skiing alone (first mistake) and not wearing a transceiver (second mistake). After all, I wasn’t “skiing,” I was “working,” tightening the bolts at the base of each chairlift tower with a torque wrench. Even in my stubborn ignorance, I could see that it was clearly very dangerous. Over a foot of dense snow had fallen the night before, on top of fragile depth hoar, and the wind was blowing hard, loading up the steep slopes beneath the upper section of the chairlift with thick slabs of wind-drifted snow.


Starting from the top, I skied down, stopping at each tower to torque the bolts. When I was finished with the tower at the top of the avalanche paths, I took off my skis and started walking back up the slope so I could gain the ridge and circle around to the tower beneath the avalanche paths. Then I quickly discovered my third mistake. Since I did not bring my backcountry skis or climbing skins, the easy climb was now an exhausting pig wallow back up through chest-deep snow, and the nearby snow-free cliffs were too scary to climb in my slippery plastic boots. I couldn’t help but notice that only a thirty-foot-wide couloir at the base of the cliffs separated me from the safe slopes on the other side. Naturally enough, I thought a good skier like me should be able to get up speed and zip across it before anything too bad happened. Ski cutting alone and without a transceiver or partner—fourth mistake.

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