Local Avalanche Risk Zones – The LARZ Project

Speciality Retail is about being part of the community. We have been part of the outdoor community in the corridor since 1990, and teaching and giving back is a key component to membership. The LARZ project is part of this. We want it to be fun and have a goal of being a teaching tool.

LARZ stands for Local Avalanche Risk Zone. Over the next month, we will post a series of photos on Instagram of areas within an easy day tour of the lifts that have demonstrated a persistent hazard over the years. It might be in bounds or might be out of bounds. You can check out the LARZ project on our Instagram here. If you can recognize the area and the hazard we are trying to showcase, you will be entered into the contest. You will enter by placing your name, email, and answer in the boxes below.

We have two key partners in this operation. Wayne Flann has helped educate the ski touring community with his avalanche blog for close to 10 years now, and he is definitely a local contributor to our knowledge base (you can find his blog here).  ARC’TERYX has local roots and has been a key partner of ours for a number of years now as well.

So with photos from Wayne and prizes from ARC’TERYX, we are putting together our contest. To enter, place your name, location guess and hazard guess in our comment zone. If you are correct, we will add you to the random drawing. The week following, we will announce the winner, the location of the photo, and give you the Avalanche Canada definition of the risk we were showcasing. This is all with the goal of helping educate the community we are proud to be part of.

1st Local Avalanche Risk Zone

Congratulations to Wylie Spencer the first winner of our Local Avalanche Risk Zone  (LARZ) contest.  Wylie correctly identified the photo as Cowboy Ridge and correctly identified the Avalanche Risk as a Cross loaded Slope.  Please look up the definition of a cross loaded slope on the Avalanche Canada site, find the definition here.  Wylie wins an ARC’TERYX Alpha SK pack worth $380!  Thanks to our partners at ARC’TERYX and to Wayne Flann for the great photo.

Avalanche Canada definition of Cross-Loading:

Cross-loading is the result of wind transporting snow across a slope. During cross-loading, snow is picked up from the windward side of ribs and outcrops and is deposited in lee pockets. Cross-loading commonly contributes to wind slab formation.


The goal of the LARZ project is to identify local sleepers.  Areas that often slide and are easily accessible, sometimes by the not so aware.  So please talk about things,  get your gear from us, get your training and get your backside out there!

Our next LARZ contest starts on Monday the 27th.  Look for the photo and get your answers in.

2nd Local Avalanche Risk Zone

Congratulations to Matt Simmons, our second winner of Local Avalanche Risk Zone  (LARZ) contest.  Matt correctly identified the photo as Poop Chutes and correctly identified the Avalanche Risk as a Shallow Rocky Stat Zone. Avalanche Canada site, find the definition here.  Matt wins ARC’TERYX Proton FL hoody worth $330! A perfect ski-touring mid layer or stand alone piece! Thanks to our partners at ARC’TERYX and to Wayne Flann for the great photo.

Avalanche Canada definition of Shallow Rocky Start Zone:

A shallow rocky start zone is an area of the snowpack where avalanches are more likely to be triggered. Areas where the snowpack is shallow and perforated by rocks are known to promote the formation of weak, faceted snow. Weak layers present in a shallow snowpack are also normally closer to the snow surface than in deeper snowpack areas. This places these layers closer to the triggering forces of a person or machine traveling on the snow above. Avalanches triggered in shallow snowpack areas often have fracture lines that propagate to deeper snowpack areas.

3rd Local Avalanche Risk Zone

We are looking for 2 key items. Please be specific!

Congratulations to Zach Greenfield, third winner of our Local Avalanche Risk Zone  (LARZ) contest.  Zach correctly identified the photo as Decker and correctly identified the Avalanche Risk as cornice collapse and terrain trap.  Please look up the definition of a Cornice and Terrain Trap on the Avalanche Canada site, find the definitions here and here.  Zach wins an ARC’TERYX Alpha SK pack worth $380!  Thanks to our partners at ARC’TERYX and to Wayne Flann for the great photo.

A cornice is an overhanging ledge or shelf of snow that usually forms over the lee side of ridges. A cornice forms as loose snow is transported over a ridge, where it collects and grows. Cornices have an unstable structure and they grow more unstable with loading or warming. When a cornice breaks, the resulting fall is usually powerful enough to trigger an avalanche.

Cornice definition

Terrain traps are features that increase the consequences of being caught in an avalanche. Terrain traps that increase the risk of physical injury include trees, rocks, cliffs, and open water. Terrain traps that increase burial depth include gullies, flat sections, and crevasses. It is important to assess slopes for the presence of terrain traps when evaluating terrain. Even a small slope can be dangerous if it is perched above a cliff or gully.

Terrain Trap definition

4th Avalanche Risk Zone

Identify the location and the most likely cause of this cornice collapse. Bonus question – what evidence makes you say this?

Congratulations to Scott McKenzie, the fourth and final winner of our Local Avalanche Risk Zone (LARZ) contest.  Scott correctly identified the photo as Flute Shoulder and correctly identified cornice collapse cause as rapid warming. Bonus points for everyone who mentioned pinwheeling, lack of snow on the trees and mid-day sun as clues.  Scott wins an ARC’TERYX Atom Lt Hoody worth $300!  Thanks to our partners at ARC’TERYX and to Wayne Flann for the great photo. Be safe and have a great spring touring season!

Rules and Regulations

  • Must be 18 years or older to enter
  • Rules for Potential Winner: Correctly identify the specific location of the hazard posted on Instagram, as well as correctly identify the type of hazard. The winner must also submit the correct information to us via the answer boxes above, as well as submitting their name and email address into the correlating boxes.
  • Picking the Winner: Out of those who correctly identify the location and type of hazard, as well as all other requirements laid out in the Rules for Potential Winner, the winner will be drawn randomly from that pool of people. If no one meets the requirements laid out in the rules, then no winner will be chosen.
  • Contacting Winner: The winner will be contacted via the email address they supplied in the answer box. The Winner, location, and hazard type will be announced on instagram the week following the contest announcement.
  • To Claim Prize: As part of the rules and regulations for the potential winner, the Winner MUST PICK UP the prize at either the Escape Route Squamish or Whistler location. No prizes will be mailed.
  • Contest Post Dates: Monday January 13th, Jan 27th, Feb 10th, and Feb 24th.
  • Winner Announcement Dates: Wednesday Jan 22nd, Feb 5th, Feb 19th, and March 4th.
  • This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.

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