Snow safety product expert Steve Christie interview on backcountry preparedness

BCA snow safety product expert Steve Christie was recently interviewed at Backcountry Access’s Seattle showroom by Glenn Farley of NBC affiliate KING 5 news. As a science and technology reporter, Glenn Farley has written extensively on disaster preparedness, be it from earthquake and tsunami risks, to volcano or wild fire danger.

In this video, Glenn interviewed Steve to discuss backcountry preparedness, snow and skiing safety.

Shared by embed code from KING 5 media, December 12, 2016.

Snow and Skiing Safety, reported by Glenn Farley, KING 5 News, December 12, 2016

The signs are everywhere. And nowhere is that clearer than that plume of fresh snow kicked out by this rotary snowplow. And all of that snow also exists in the backcountry, and also leads to the increasing depths in those pits under trees called tree wells.

“You know the first thing you want to do is check the Northwest Avalanche Center report, it’s a tremendous resource we have around here,” say Steve Christie, director of Backcountry Access in Seattle.

Steve Christie works with snow safety products and he shows us the kind of backcountry gear you need before you head out.

“There are three mandatory pieces of gear you need if you are going to be in the backcountry, skiing or boarding in deep snow where there is avalanche potential,” continues Steve.

The first step is having a working beacon that can be detected under the snow.

“(Beep, beep, beep)…we’ve got a reading of 1.5 that basically tells me that someone is one and one-half meters away, you can think about it in yards as well. As I get close to the signal, these numbers go down. So let’s say we found a victim here at this location. The next thing we want to do is to get out an avalanche probe out. The avalanche probe is going to tell us the exact depth and the location of a buried victim,” say Steve.

We found Teresa Miller and Tim Swain, fully prepared backcountry skiers at Snoqualmie Pass.

“We don’t want to be on steep terrain because it’s a considerable avalanche danger day according to the snow safety experts,” explains Teresa.

Teresa and Tim even have a snowmobile to reach challenging terrain. But they are being smart and have all the tools. She pulls out an avalanche shovel and other items from her avalanche airbag pack to show us what to carry in the winter.

Gear Review: What to Carry in Your Ski Pack This Winter

“We’d pull out airbags for you, but that’s expensive (and we need to have them ready to deploy for our outing),” Teresa says.

But at Backcountry Access, we did test deploy the BCA Float avalanche airbag. The idea of the deployed airbag is that it will give the ability to float when the avalanche and all that snow is moving and acts a lot like water.

“It is one of the fasted growing sections of the skiing industry, the backcountry market,” says Steve Christie. “Now I want to be fair, that also includes snowmobiling, there’s some very aggressive snowmobiling going on out there as well, and that’s part of our business.”

So of course, the piles of snow will be pushed higher as this winter wears on. This has been a pretty good start to the season. But one of the concerns here for the snow safety experts is what comes after today’s snowstorm. We are going to see blue sky for an extended period of time, and they worry about something called “Blue Sky Syndrome,” when some backcountry folks could be lured into pushing themselves to far and to hard. Reporting from Snoqualmie Pass, Glenn Farley, KING 5 news.


Glenn Farley has been a reporter for 30 years for KING 5, a broadcast media company and NBC affiliate based in Seattle, WA.