Snow Man

Utah's Wasatch Mountains are teeming with guys who geek out over depth hoar. But there are only a few snow scientists on par with Dean Cardinale. In addition to being one of Snowbird's avalanche forecasters, the 38-year-old is also the president of Wasatch Backcountry Rescue and a certified instructor with the American Avalanche Association. He spoke to us this past June from Russia, where he was guiding a trip up 18,510-foot Mount Elbrus.

OUTSIDE: How's the weather?
CARDINALE: It's nice right now, nice view and sunset. There's quite a bit of snow, and the conditions are pretty good—kind of springtime-type corn.

You're working on the Seven Summits, right?
Yeah. I climbed Everest in 2005, and Kilimanjaro, Denali, and now Elbrus. I've got my own guiding business now [World Wide Trekking, wwtrek.com]. After the ski and climb here, I'm taking a group to Kilimanjaro, and then I'm heading back to Nepal.

But you're returning to Snowbird this winter?
Oh, yeah, Snowbird's my main gig. It's where my home is, where my heart is. I usually get back in mid-October to make sure I'm all set up with the weather instrumentation before the snow flies. And once it starts, I'm in the field every day doing data collection and control work.

Any backcountry advice?
Don't get too comfortable with it. And of course you need to be prepared and get out there and practice your rescue skills. There are now four fully automated rescue-training facilities scattered about the Wasatch backcountry. [The training is free. Go to wasatchbackcountryrescue.org for more information and locations.]

What's your favorite piece of rescue gear?
The most important thing is that you need to think of it all—beacon, probe, and shovel—as a package, and you need to be able to use each one as fast as you can. My new favorite piece of gear is actually a Petzl Tikka XP [$50; petzl.com]. It has this little slider that changes the light from a long spot beam to a more diffuse LED beam for working at your hands. When it's cold and dark, a handy feature like that can mean so much.

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