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Old 01-09-2009, 03:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default PSA: Kicking off an avalanche

All around the west there are reports of the snow pack just being sketchy all the way around. This is pretty much the standard for Colorado, with a continental snow pack it's always dicey until spring when the snow goes isothermal. Yet this year is a standout like I haven't seen ever. I was up on Vail Pass yesterday and we managed to set off 3 avalanches. Two remotely triggered and one with a snowboard cut.

We dug a pit and did a Rutschblock test. The results were a RB3. The slab held when we cut it out, and when Adam stepped on it. As soon as he did the hip drop it released.

Basiscally there was a buried surface hoar layer on a hard slab. New snow over 36" in this area. Tom looking at part of the surface area of the slab that broke loose.

To get the bottom slab to go Adam had to get up to 7 hops. So at least that was bomber. The shear was very fractured so not really showing any pent up energy in the release. Still we had a huge red flag with a RB3 result. We went over to more broken terrain that should be less likely to slide. Adam did a slope cut and the thing ripped about 50ft wide.

and a closer look at the slab. This was plenty of snow to bury a person.

We did ride down the avy path since the snow was clear. On the way back to the ridge I remotely released another slide bigger than that one from the ridge about 30 feet away. That was enough and we left. Having a mini epic with leaving to boot.
This is definitely a year to evaluate the snow carefully, choose lines wisely, and just plain old turn around and leave if the danger is high enough.
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Old 01-10-2009, 05:47 AM   #2 (permalink)
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WHYY DID THE SNOOW GOOOOO. lucky ass
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Old 01-19-2009, 12:08 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Here's a question for any who work at a mountain. I feel like an asshole admitting any of this, but it is what it is. Last weekend I was riding Whistler alone -- my boyfriend was also at the mountain, but doing his avalanche course (big ups!) and I was just finished warming-up when I realized with some disappointment that I wasn't going to be able to try anything new since I didn't have a riding partner. Then I met a chick on the lift who said she was going to hike Harmony and asked if I'd like to come. Hell yes! It was freaking gorgeous shit up there, perfect pow and we hit some really nice trees and this really neat little gully -- I was totally stoked. Later on I was boasting to my BF "Dude, I rode Harmony today!" "No you didn't." "Yes I did." "No. You didn't. My avy course group went there. That area was closed. Do you have any idea how high the avalanche risk was??"

Hence my feeling like an asshole. I didn't notice any big orange signs "Stay out unless you wanna wake up dead" but there was a ski patrol guy up there. He sledded right past us, where a bunch of people were all getting ready to drop in, but said nothing. So this is what I ask of you: Am I really an asshole, or was that ski-patroller the one who should have said something, or is it possible that in his earnest enthusiasm over his avy course that my BF overstated the risk I put myself in?
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Old 01-19-2009, 01:25 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Who was wearing the ski patrol suit?
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Old 01-20-2009, 07:06 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Sounds like to me that Ski Patroller had probably just opened that run. I seriously doubt they would have stood there if you were entering a closed run.
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Old 01-20-2009, 11:09 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Question Killz, how do you remotely set them off? Tell me you know how to use explosives, or use some other device ordered from ACME?
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Old 01-20-2009, 11:49 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Simply by just being there we caused the snow to release. No explosives needed.
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Old 01-20-2009, 12:15 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Damn, I was picturing a backpack full of Nitro a la Vertical Limit!
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