KNOW YOUR RISK:
What do you want to know of a backcountry slope?
- Whether it could avalanche today
What will your inclinometer tell you?
- A number indicating the the slope angle
Clinopole inclinometer will tell you in three seconds,
the risk of triggering an avalanche on this slope and today's avy danger conditions. Plus the slope angle.
INSTANT CONTACT INCLINOMETRY:
Age-old ski-pole tricks for slope angle estimation were updated by adding
-A precision spirit level indicator vial on the horizontal pole,
and slope angle grades on the vertical pole,
using basic trigonometric tangent tables.
The result: an accurate and quick contact inclinometry instrument,
for measuring the slope angle right where you are.
PLUS VISUAL AVALANCHE RISK CHECK:
Two established avalanche decision frameworks utilize
only the slope angle and current avalanche danger grade to
determine the avalanche risk of the slope.
This info was applied on the pole as color symbols right over
the degree markings, for immediate risk check.
PLUS LINE-OF-SIGHT INCLINOMETRY:
Commercially available and patented PoleClinometer®
sticker for line-of-sight inclinometry of an adjacent slope
(sideways, up- or downhill) was added.
the fastest, and most reliable slope meter and avalanche
avoidance tool in the world.
In your hands all the way.
-Extremely lightweight (30 grams = 1,04 oz).
-Low-tech powered only by gravity; no worries of battery life or cellphone connection.
-Avy avoidance knowledge is built in the pole, you need not memorize lists,
calculations, algorithms etc. Only check the avalanche bulletin before heading out.
-Super easy to use, suitable for DIY and cheap.
Avalanche avoidance is the most important subject in avalanche education. It covers masses of information on mountains, snowpack, weather, equipment,travel tactics, human behavior etc. Many students feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of facts taught in avy courses. It really takes years to master the avalanche avoidance science. The beginner needs clear and simple means to avoid fatal danger.
The most constant and unequivocal determinant of avalanche triggering is the slope angle.
The simplest avalanche avoidance frameworks utilize only information of the slope angle and the day's avalanche danger grade given in the avalanche bulletin. These frameworks have been shown to be 80 to 100% effective in fatal avalanche accident prevention.
Clinopoles combine inclinometry and immediate visual risk check, making avalanche avoidance quick and simple even for the less experienced.
what's in it for me?
Hiking up the slope is great. But you came here to whizz down the slope, not to fuss with instruments or read avy instruction cards. Inclinometry and slope evaluation are important, but they should not delay your ascent.
Ability to do slope safety evaluation in a couple of seconds results in frequent measurements.
Develops your slope angle estimation skills.
Informs you about entering a slope where you may trigger an avalanche, how close to or how far into risk zone you have come: gives impetus to plan an alternative route.
Backs up even the unpleasant decision to turn around.
Being able to do reliable risk assessment creates confidence and a mindset change from a passive follower of guide or buddies to an alert observer, aware of the conditions.
Allows you to relax and enjoy the slopes you have determined safe, giving freedom to concentrate on other challenges of the sport.
While keeping yourself safe, you will at the same time start developing your mountain sense, instinctive recognition of risky conditions.
...but is not:
CLINOPOLES IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR FORMAL AVALANCHE TRAINING. Rather, it is an invaluable companion after your first avalanche course.
It does NOT protect you from avalanches released above you; spontaneously, by someone else, or through remote triggering by yourself.
No avalanche decision framework can give you a 100% guarantee of avoiding self-triggered avalanches.
The freely hanging vertical pole is sensitive to hard wind.
Poles sink in fluffy powder snow: use a ski aligned with surface as a support.
If inclinometry is not done often enough, you may unknowingly wander onto a dangerously steep slope.
You must know your geography: Avalanche risk varies in different snow climates and slope aspects.
You must also know a lot of the snowpack, weather, group dynamics etc.
Clinopoles help to keep you safe while learning!
I am the sole author of this web page.
My name is Matti Verkasalo, and I am a retired pediatrician from Helsinki, Finland. I got hooked by backcountry snowboarding at a rather late age, around my forties. I tried to learn as much as I could, got all the books I came across, and spent weeks and months on various web pages. Ended up co-authoring the very first Finnish snow safety book.
How did this come about?
I always was somewhat uneasy about inclinometry: I had several simple and reliable inclinometers, but I hardly ever used them on the slopes which I knew could in certain conditions avalanche. I eventually realized that I did not want to stop for the 20-60 seconds it took to shed gloves and poles, dig the inclinometer from wherever it was travelling, crouching on the snow for the reading, and putting the instrument safely back.
The quick ski pole inclinometry methods interested me. I tried the right angle poles-method, but I was disappointed at its inherent inaccuracy: Vertical pole is vertical because it hangs free, but horizontal can be anything because on the slope you do not have a reference line, and you are too close to judge if the angle between the two poles is 90 degrees or something else. The equilateral triangle-method is accurate, but only on a limited range of 28-32 degrees.
About twelve years ago I came across a string on ski pole inclinometry in Teton Gravity Research (now extinct) Forum. There ”TeleAl” from Leysin, Switzerland, referred to the same problem, and ended his/her post with a punchline about ”bringing a level (torpedo)!”
That was intended to be a joke, but some time later I found tiny spirit levels and eventually newer separate acrylic spirit level vials, and started experimenting with them on my poles. Having added tangent-derived degree scale on the vertical pole I realized that ski pole inclinometry changed from estimation to precision measurement.
At the same time I discovered another reason why I did not do inclinometry so often: I had difficulties remembering the combined significance of slope angle and the avalanche danger grade to the risk of triggering a slab avalanche. I realized that I could incorporate the basic avalanche risk information into the tool I carry in my hands all the time. Why should I try to remember things which I could read on my poles?
What is your goal?
I believe that keeping the backcountry traveler constantly aware of the avalanche risk will develop - besides slope estimation accuracy - also the mysterious mountain sense, strengthen their realistic appreciation of potential danger and eventually, save lives. Using Clinopoles will facilitate the internalization of the very basic, unchanging factors of avalanche triggering, while keeping you reasonably safe. The tool frees your mind to observe and learn of the ever-changing aspects of avalanche danger: snowpack, weather, group dynamics etc.
I hope to air my idea, and am offering it to anybody for development. I am not wishing to set up a business, rather I hope for freeskiing-riding-snowshoeing community participation in refining the idea. And yes, I have got many valuable suggestions over the years!
My ultimate wish is that it would eventually end up in industrial production, and it could help backcountry novices and seasoned travelers as well, to discern when they are entering a slope where avalanches may happen. Then either turn to mellower slope or apply their avalanche avoidance skills right when and where they are needed to prevent accidents.
Clinopoles could be available for rent at ski shops, backcountry/snowshoeing rental agencies, and at avalanche courses.
I imagine that at first individuals could upgrade their poles themselves, or maybe ask the handyman in their ski shop to do it for them. When/if the idea seems viable, the ski pole manufacturers could take up making them.
I am grateful to the organizers of ISSW2018 and Nordic Skredkonferansen 2019 for giving me, an individual without institutional snow science background, other credentials, or influential friends, a chance to present my proposal for these prestigious meetings of experts, and thus get a sounding board for this idea.
In 2020 I wish to get user experience from several experienced freeriders and -skiers, get z-flex poles tape scale to a stage it could be distributed together with easy-to attach acrylic vials, to make DIY easy for these poles, and start a critical study on how use of Clinopoles would affect slope estimation skills and behavior in avalanche terrain.
Who else is involved?
In bubble vial contact inclinometer with risk indicator markings - nobody else at the moment.
Grayson King at SnoWander LLC, the inventor of PoleClinometer®, has been helpful and encouraging when I asked if I could present the use of his line-of-sight inclinometer and my contact inclinometer in one pair of poles, combined to make a universal instant inclinometer.
Also the people at GarageGrownGear have helped in details with the PoleClinometer®.
From 2020 on I have worked with Prof. Jordy Hendrikx of Snow and Avalanche Laboratory, Department of Earth Sciences, Montana University, to find out what my claims of the virtues of Clinopoles are worth!