I've been really stoked on backcountry skiing this year. The danger is avalanches.

A tester digs snowpits to analyze the snow pack to find weak layers that might cause avalanches. The procedure is to dig a pit in the snow to the ground on the hill one intends to ski. This year there is already 12 feet fallen and 6 feet on the ground in the Sierra's. The tester pokes the snow with the fist, or fingers, and runs a card through it to feel for the densities, the layers, the crusts, and the loose snow looking for weaknesses. Then several columns are isolated with a snowsaw. The snow is tapped on top 30 times with increasing force from the wrist, elbow then shoulder. The tester looks to see if the snow columns shears off at any level in the snowpack. The number tap at which the snow shears is the first metric of the Compression Test giving a CT number. The depth of the various layers and at which the shears occurs is quantified. The fourth metric is the force with which the snow shears. Crumbly snow is Q3, but a clean shear that slides off easily with a few taps is Q1 and present clear avalanche danger. There is also an extended column test to test if the cracks propagate easily leading to widespread avalanche failures. The tester also reviews the weather patterns that created the snowpack and the subsequent temperatures and humidity and how it affects the snow pack. The quality of the various layers is qualified. Some problem snow is qualified as sugar, hoar frost, rime, windslab.

Curiously, this is similar to quantitative back testing and the market analyst has things to learn from the avalanche testers. By measuring the the actual condition of the recent snow pack as to both compression and energy, better predictions can be made. The mistake of quantitative testing is to use numbers over numerous years where the conditions may have been different. Use of the actual conditions in the current market "snowpack" would have good predictive properties for avalanches such as this morning's jobs number. An example of this is the trader's saw that gaps fill. Gaps are like a weak layer in the snow pack, and tend to back fill or even avalanche down. The thing about markets is that they can avalanche up as well as we saw earlier this week. It might be good practice to quantify or qualify the various market levels, the market conditions in which they occurred, the way in which subsequent event affected prior events and their "healing", the strength or weakness of various market levels, the length of time from various events, the theoretical or historical properties of the market, All in all, its fertile ground for testing ideas. At the least we should come up with some colorful names for market conditions in addition to gaps, consolidation, based on quantifiable conditions as opposed to chart patterns.


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