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New Light on Skiing In Bounds With an Avalanche Beacon - Page 3

post #61 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by nathanvg View Post
 

I completely agree that the average skier on this board is in more risk than the average skier. 

 

But even if you assume you ski harder (more avalanche prone) lines than 99% of people and you also ski 10 times more days than average (110 days/year), the odds are still 1 in 50,000 which is still extremely remote odds.  It's not just cars that are way more dangerous, you have a million other more pressing safety concerns, death by: accidental electrocution, hot weather, crossing the street, drowning, etc.

 

Science isn't perfect, but to date, the science clearly shows that the risk is extremely low.  Often these remote events are way over estimated due to social factors.  It's similar to how many people have an irrational fear of flying even though it's way safer than driving.  A plane crash and an avalanche are both scary but very rare.

 

 

You're still making your argument from a starting statistic (1 in 50 mil) that we know nothing about. No units, no source. Hardly science -- just a cherry picked "fact" with no attribution. 

post #62 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmeb View Post
 

 

 

You're still making your argument from a starting statistic (1 in 50 mil) that we know nothing about. No units, no source. Hardly science -- just a cherry picked "fact" with no attribution. 


The source is the article at the start of this thread.  I'm assuming Outside's stat is accurate.  I'm open to other suggestions.

 

A quick search shows a NSAA metric that is similar to Outside's:odds of death 1 in 2.8 million for those skiers who ski steep lines (15% of skiers, odds of death for any skier 1 in 19 million)

 

http://www.avalanche.org/moonstone/SnowMechanics/Inbounds%20articles.28.3.pdf

 

That metric is based on 2008/09 season which was "one of the worst in the history of the US ski industry."  One would assume that a longer time range and adjustment for burial as opposed to death would lead to even longer odds. 

 

The article as states: "the risk is statistically miniscule"

post #63 of 276

Statistics can be misleading. 

 

When I lived/skied in the Northeast, the closest I ever heard of someone coming to getting caught in an avy was either on a trip out west, europe, or maybe Tucks in the spring. Now living in Colorado, I have a smaller circle of ski friends, but almost every one has been close to a slide, if not caught directly at one time or another.

 

It isn't just about steep lines, and it often isn't about awareness, knowledge, experience, preparedness, or lack there of. IMO, it's largely about habits, and snowpack, which can be relative to geographic location. You could ski steep lines in the east your entire life, and the associated risk of being caught in an avy might indeed be minuscule. You could ski steep lines in controlled terrain out west, and IMO your exposure to risk of getting caught becomes exponentially higher, but this shouldn't be news to anybody.

 

Anyway, statistics are of small comfort to victims, and their families/loved ones. Be safe out there, and don't ever assume the odds are in your favor. 

post #64 of 276
New backside terrain at whitefish resort should keep the local sheriff busy
post #65 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by nathanvg View Post
 


The source is the article at the start of this thread.  I'm assuming Outside's stat is accurate.  I'm open to other suggestions.

 

A quick search shows a NSAA metric that is similar to Outside's:odds of death 1 in 2.8 million for those skiers who ski steep lines (15% of skiers, odds of death for any skier 1 in 19 million)

 

http://www.avalanche.org/moonstone/SnowMechanics/Inbounds%20articles.28.3.pdf

 

That metric is based on 2008/09 season which was "one of the worst in the history of the US ski industry."  One would assume that a longer time range and adjustment for burial as opposed to death would lead to even longer odds. 

 

The article as states: "the risk is statistically miniscule"

 

 

Leaving out "fat tailed" events, which will come sooner or later, the real heightened risk is for areas that have just been opened, or in some cases just been reopened after a long storm cycle, and so have more of a backcountry snowpack.  That snowpack takes time to change into a true inbounds snowpack, and patrol can't do that before opening the terrain, though they do have some programs in place to do as much as possible.  Even then, the risk is small.  People should also be mindful that if they are solely concerned with mitigating inbounds risk, that a beacon is not the most effective tool available for doing this.  Airbag packs are the single most effective tool available for mitigating the effects of avy entrainment.  That should be born in mind when making personal decisions.

 

We will sooner or later get a headline-grabbing event that involves a large number of burials.  Even with the hysteria that will follow that event, the risk will still be smaller than driving to the resort.  People who die from car accidents or from hitting trees after a beer or two aren't national headlines unless they are already well-known.  This is similar to the west coach beaches, where drownings are common, shark attacks incredibly rare, and people still give a lot of worry to sharks and do not give heightened concern to swimming after having had a beer or two.

post #66 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by nathanvg View Post
 


The source is the article at the start of this thread.  I'm assuming Outside's stat is accurate.  I'm open to other suggestions.

 

A quick search shows a NSAA metric that is similar to Outside's:odds of death 1 in 2.8 million for those skiers who ski steep lines (15% of skiers, odds of death for any skier 1 in 19 million)

 

http://www.avalanche.org/moonstone/SnowMechanics/Inbounds%20articles.28.3.pdf

 

That metric is based on 2008/09 season which was "one of the worst in the history of the US ski industry."  One would assume that a longer time range and adjustment for burial as opposed to death would lead to even longer odds. 

 

The article as states: "the risk is statistically miniscule"

 

I didn't mean to imply you hadn't attributed it -- but the Outside just states this fact without any source, or definition of units/population. 

 

Helpful article you posted. It gets us closer to a good starting point number -- 1 in 2.8mil.

 

Once we start qualifying that number with all the ideas in this thread about times people might ought to take a beacon/avy gear -- in extreme terrain, after fresh snow, during avy-season (i.e early season uncompacted snow, not spring corn) -- and then further reduce it to people who are regular or heavy users of avy terrain (since that 2.8 mil is skier days, not skiers) that number starts looking a bit more frightening. 

 

Is that number anywhere near the rate of car related fatalities etc? Hell no. Does it mean that it is so miniscule that it is not worthy of attention? That's a personal call. 

 

P.S. I'm not trying to be a jerk. My professional life is about measuring things in meaningful ways -- I get a bit too into it on occasion. Especially when drowning in coffee.


Edited by jmeb - 10/18/14 at 7:26am
post #67 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by nathanvg View Post


The source is the article at the start of this thread.  I'm assuming Outside's stat is accurate.  I'm open to other suggestions.

A quick search shows a NSAA metric that is similar to Outside's:odds of death 1 in 2.8 million for those skiers who ski steep lines (15% of skiers, odds of death for any skier 1 in 19 million)

http://www.avalanche.org/moonstone/SnowMechanics/Inbounds%20articles.28.3.pdf

That metric is based on 2008/09 season which was "one of the worst in the history of the US ski industry."  One would assume that a longer time range and adjustment for burial as opposed to death would lead to even longer odds. 

The article as states: "the risk is statistically miniscule"

The risk may be miniscule, but the stakes are enormous. Even in the backcountry, the risk of setting off a slide on any given slope are pretty remote. Further, most skiers in the BC ski milder slopes in the BC than inbounds, because doing that super sweet 20' cornice entry to slam down on an awesome windloaded 38* pitch in the BC feels like Russian Roulette.

I don't think yourgument makes logical sense. Driving death rates are so high because people spend a ton of time in the car. There is a small group of people that are accounting for the lion's share of descents in inbounds slide terrain. I am SURE I am not the only one that has kicked off a slide inbounds on this board. There is real risk as seen from the number of people on this board that have witnessed or started an inbounds avalanche. If you are spending your whole season playing in inbounds avalanche terrain, there is no reason not to take precaution.
post #68 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post

... There is a small group of people that are accounting for the lion's share of descents in inbounds slide terrain....

 

Actually, no.  Inbounds terrain exposed to the possibility of slide is much more widespread than people realize, and very little of that terrain is "extreme."  The reason skiing inbounds is so safe is that patrol does a very good job.

 

As for "stakes," even with stakes including death, statistically you're still looking at a low level of risk per day of exposure.  What you can't factor into a return period from which stats are derived are all sorts of outliers that I doubt many are even thinking of.  For instance, large earthquakes.  Which are a risk even for the east, and for some areas of the west real big issues, but not part of the numbers that we can measure as regards historically experienced inbounds avy deaths.  They could make the trip in the car to the actual ski area real fun along with shaking some snow, so it's imo not one to really worry about.

post #69 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post
 

 

Actually, no.  Inbounds terrain exposed to the possibility of slide is much more widespread than people realize, and very little of that terrain is "extreme."  The reason skiing inbounds is so safe is that patrol does a very good job.

 

 

I think @anachronism was following the posted article which said that 15% of ski days have time spent on inbounds terrain steep enough to slide. Which would imply he's pretty correct on the lion share being on a few people, esp. since the majority of those 15% of days are going to be made up with an even smaller percent since those skilled enough to ski that terrain are likely regular skiers. 

 

^^ This doesn't take into account low-angled terrain below slide paths. As you say, patrol does a very good job of mitigating most things that could effect most visitors. Anyone have stats on inbounds avy burials that happened while the victim was on low angled terrain? I'd imagine its very

post #70 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post
 

 

The reason skiing inbounds is so safe is that patrol does a very good job.

 

 

I'm cherry-picking of course, but IMO that is a very dangerous line of reasoning.

 

So did patrol not do a very good job the day I was caught in an inbound slide, or are there many other variables at play that are beyond patrol's capacity to control?

post #71 of 276
The latter...

Anyhow, this thread is easy. If you don't want to wear avy gear inbounds, then don't. If you do, then by all means go for it. I will on particular days, and won't on others. Can we talk about helmets again now? And ski width? Or 'how will the snow and weather be when I visit destination resort X on January 15th, 2017'? Now if K2 would only bring production back to the US....
Edited by markojp - 10/18/14 at 9:05am
post #72 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmeb View Post
 

 

I think @anachronism was following the posted article which said that 15% of ski days have time spent on inbounds terrain steep enough to slide. Which would imply he's pretty correct on the lion share being on a few people, esp. since the majority of those 15% of days are going to be made up with an even smaller percent since those skilled enough to ski that terrain are likely regular skiers. 

 

^^ This doesn't take into account low-angled terrain below slide paths. As you say, patrol does a very good job of mitigating most things that could effect most visitors. Anyone have stats on inbounds avy burials that happened while the victim was on low angled terrain? I'd imagine its very

Well, if the standard is terrain that if uncontrolled would be prone to slide, the figure is higher than 15% for many western resorts. 

 

For burials on truly low angled terrain, it does happen but yes the risk is quite small, again because of good control efforts.  A kid even got knocked off a lift by a slide that started well outside the resort at one area a few years back; the run the lift was over had minimal potential for a slide starting anywhere except a few shoulders, even if never controlled, but outside the resort was different.  The area the slide started in is now controlled. 

 

For numbers crunchers, I also note that everybody assumes that risk reduction occurs when things like beacons are used, because they assume the rest of the equation to be static.  A beacon might be tough to justify on a $ basis for a solely inbounds resort skier, but risk reduction would occur assuming that the skier didn't then go literally looking for trouble (including didn't start feeling more comfortable poaching -- and some recent fatalities, as noted, that some write up as inbounds weren't , or likely weren't, on open inbounds terrain).  When that beacon user then feels comfortable heading into sidecountry or backcountry, more risk will be assumed by them.  Basically beacon use happens in a behavioral environment that in the aggregate is not static. 

post #73 of 276

One thing I don't think has been mentioned yet in this thread -

 

What I've noticed as I've started learning about out of bounds skiing is: The exact lines and snow that we look for inbounds, is the stuff that you would avoid as way too dangerous in the backcountry. Correct me if I'm wrong; I'm new to this. Everything I read about what to avoid in the backcountry is exactly what ski instructors point us to for the "good stuff."

 

Based on that, we're one ski patrol miscalculation away from an avalanche. I own a beacon. I will wear it.

post #74 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by bounceswoosh View Post
 

One thing I don't think has been mentioned yet in this thread -

 

What I've noticed as I've started learning about out of bounds skiing is: The exact lines and snow that we look for inbounds, is the stuff that you would avoid as way too dangerous in the backcountry. Correct me if I'm wrong; I'm new to this. Everything I read about what to avoid in the backcountry is exactly what the ski industry, and most everyone we know who skis point us to for the "good stuff."

 

Based on that, we're one miscalculation away from an avalanche. I own a beacon. I will wear it.

FIFY. 

 

IMO, we can't put all the responsibility on instructors, or ski patrol. They can't possibly anticipate every scenario, and people need to exercise a little common sense, and assume some responsibility for their own actions. The IB avy deaths two years ago at Vail and WP were tragedies of course, but the lawsuits that followed to me demonstrate the naivete of the public, and our justice system when it comes to the realities of skiing in avalanche terrain.

 

You're right though, I probably wouldn't ski half of what I ski at the resort in the BC. There's also a proximity to help that figures into some of those decisions. I'm a 911 dispatcher, and have dispatched quite a few winter bc rescues/recoveries. It never ceases to amaze me the seeming eternity it takes for responders to reach victims in the bc, even ones that I don't think are particularly remote. It's no one's fault, it just the reality of the situation, and something I try to keep in mind every time I venture into the bc. Also, because I work in this field, I don't ever want to be the subject of one of these SAR missions. 1, it could be embarrassing to me, 2, it could put others in harm's way, and 3, I would think it's harder for SAR emotionally when the victim is known to them. Doesn't mean I'm going to quit skiing, or start avoiding the bc, just that I'm going to try to take all reasonable precautions, and make good decisions. Hopefully that will be enough.


Edited by MT Skull - 10/18/14 at 10:50am
post #75 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by MT Skull View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bounceswoosh View Post
 

One thing I don't think has been mentioned yet in this thread -

 

What I've noticed as I've started learning about out of bounds skiing is: The exact lines and snow that we look for inbounds, is the stuff that you would avoid as way too dangerous in the backcountry. Correct me if I'm wrong; I'm new to this. Everything I read about what to avoid in the backcountry is exactly what the ski industry, and most everyone we know who skis point us to for the "good stuff."

 

Based on that, we're one miscalculation away from an avalanche. I own a beacon. I will wear it.

FIFY. 

 

IMO, we can't put all the responsibility on instructors, or ski patrol. They can't possibly anticipate every scenario, and people need to exercise a little common sense, and assume some responsibility for their own actions. The IB avy deaths two years ago at Vail and WP were tragedies of course, but the lawsuits that followed to me demonstrate the naivete of the public, and our justice system when it comes to the realities of skiing in avalanche terrain. 

 

Yes, absolutely. I didn't mean to imply that instructors are to blame for sending people to their deaths, I meant more like "they know the mountain and are showing us the good stashes that not everyone knows about" - as @anachronism described earlier.

post #76 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by bounceswoosh View Post
 

 

Yes, absolutely. I didn't mean to imply that instructors are to blame for sending people to their deaths, I meant more like "they know the mountain and are showing us the good stashes that not everyone knows about" - as @anachronism described earlier.

Yep, I didn't think you were trying to imply that; just thought the point needed clarification, and I'll just throw it out there that I regularly hear people complain that patrol is being too conservative with terrain openings at my local bump, which IMO just has the potential to create more problems.

 

Do skiers want the entire mountain homogenized for easy consumption, or do they want complete access to ski at their own risk? Delicate balancing act by patrol, marketing, and Mtn Management IMO, and not a job I'd want to perform. For me it's easy; if I want all-access, I've got the bc. If I choose to ski at the resort, I need to abide by their rules and decisions. Took getting my pass suspended for two weeks a couple of years back for me to figure that out.

post #77 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by MT Skull View Post
 
I'll just throw it out there that I regularly hear people complain that patrol is being too conservative with terrain openings at my local bump, which IMO just has the potential to create more problems.

 

When I hear that kind of talk, I'm baffled. I have never heard it - that I recall - from someone I thought was probably a skilled and knowledgeable backcountry skier or avalanche expert. Just inbounds skiers without a clue about how dangerous the snow can be without all the work patrol puts in.

post #78 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by bounceswoosh View Post
 

 

When I hear that kind of talk, I'm baffled. I have never heard it - that I recall - from someone I thought was probably a skilled and knowledgeable backcountry skier or avalanche expert. Just inbounds skiers without a clue about how dangerous the snow can be without all the work patrol puts in.


???  It's quite common, and frequently from skilled and knowledgeable skiers and riders.  Players want to play.

 

However, with all the pressures to open asap, patrols still do a great job exercising their own judgment.

post #79 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post
 


???  It's quite common, and frequently from skilled and knowledgeable skiers and riders.  Players want to play.

 

However, with all the pressures to open asap, patrols still do a great job exercising their own judgment.

This.

 

I wish I had gopro'ed the conversation I had in the Mountain Manager's office with he and the head of patrol when they were pulling my pass. They both demonstrated great composure, but were clearly pissed, and took it even more personally because they know me, and who I work for.

 

All good now though, at least I think so, but I still owe them both a beer!

 

Here's the xtranormal I made as one of the conditions for having my pass restored:

 

post #80 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by bounceswoosh View Post
 

One thing I don't think has been mentioned yet in this thread -

 

What I've noticed as I've started learning about out of bounds skiing is: The exact lines and snow that we look for inbounds, is the stuff that you would avoid as way too dangerous in the backcountry. Correct me if I'm wrong; I'm new to this. Everything I read about what to avoid in the backcountry is exactly what ski instructors point us to for the "good stuff."

 

Based on that, we're one ski patrol miscalculation away from an avalanche. I own a beacon. I will wear it.

 

 

The slope/slope angle is only one part of the equation. I've skied a lot of terrain that's pretty much the same as the inbounds stuff we do around here. What I'm aware of is that BC stuff isn't controlled, so I'm 110% responsible for my evaluation and go/no go protocol. Some days you go, other's you don't... same hill, different time/temp/snow/wind/etc..... 

 

Do take an avy awareness or intro class at the very least if you can.

post #81 of 276
Excellent!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by MT Skull View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post

 


???  It's quite common, and frequently from skilled and knowledgeable skiers and riders.  Players want to play.

However, with all the pressures to open asap, patrols still do a great job exercising their own judgment.
This.

I wish I had gopro'ed the conversation I had in the Mountain Manager's office with he and the head of patrol when they were pulling my pass. They both demonstrated great composure, but were clearly pissed, and took it even more personally because they know me, and who I work for.

All good now though, at least I think so, but I still owe them both a beer!

Here's the xtranormal I made as one of the conditions for having my pass restored:


post #82 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

 

The slope/slope angle is only one part of the equation. I've skied a lot of terrain that's pretty much the same as the inbounds stuff we do around here. What I'm aware of is that BC stuff isn't controlled, so I'm 110% responsible for my evaluation and go/no go protocol. Some days you go, other's you don't... same hill, different time/temp/snow/wind/etc..... 

 

Do take an avy awareness or intro class at the very least if you can.

 

Oh yes. I've taken a free REI class on using my beacon and have read the Tremper and Snow Sense books, and Avy 1 is on my list for this season or maybe next. In terms of actual skiing, I did a guided intro to backcountry class through Colorado Mountain School, and other than that only one very low angle area, with friends who'd just taken Avy 1. Most of my skinning has been at Breck on dry mornings, just for a workout ... 

post #83 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by MT Skull View Post

...having airbag trigger deployed before leaving said lot. Several write-ups of the Sheep Creek accident indicated that the members of the party with airbags had their triggers stashed. I can't help but think if one or two in the group had avoided complete burial, at least a few more of the group might have survived. Maybe not, and don't mean to armchair qb the accident ...

Just saw this.  Understand you're not trying to armchair QB.  FWIW, given that slide, they were frigged no matter what.   However, that underscores by contrast what the typical inbounds slide might be, and why an airbag pack would be more effective than a beacon.  Inbounds ain't Sheep Creek.  Given control work already done, barring outlier events, inbounds on open terrain you're looking more likely than not at something that an airbag pack might well effectively mitigate against, whereas a beacon by itself might leave you buried and possibly critically injured before any search could start.  Just more food for thought.

post #84 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post
 

 

 

The slope/slope angle is only one part of the equation. I've skied a lot of terrain that's pretty much the same as the inbounds stuff we do around here. What I'm aware of is that BC stuff isn't controlled, so I'm 110% responsible for my evaluation and go/no go protocol. Some days you go, other's you don't... same hill, different time/temp/snow/wind/etc..... 

 

 

 

 Yeah, but....

 

I get what she is saying. With our normally crappy snowpack, I'm not sure I will ever ski the same kind of stuff OB that I love to ski inbounds. 

post #85 of 276
I use mine to find my buds in the bar
post #86 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

 Yeah, but....

I get what she is saying. With our normally crappy snowpack, I'm not sure I will ever ski the same kind of stuff OB that I love to ski inbounds. 

No doubt. The CO stuff is very spooky when viewed from my distant vantage point.
post #87 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post
 

Just saw this.  Understand you're not trying to armchair QB.  FWIW, given that slide, they were frigged no matter what.   However, that underscores by contrast what the typical inbounds slide might be, and why an airbag pack would be more effective than a beacon.  Inbounds ain't Sheep Creek.  Given control work already done, barring outlier events, inbounds on open terrain you're looking more likely than not at something that an airbag pack might well effectively mitigate against, whereas a beacon by itself might leave you buried and possibly critically injured before any search could start.  Just more food for thought.

Not sure if you're aware of the proximity of Sheep Creek to IB terrain, or what was going on weather-wise in the months, and specifically the week leading up to the accident, but I don't think it's necessarily accurate to draw the conclusion that they were frigged no matter what. We received a bunch of new snow that week, along with strong winds and some impressive cross-loading. I remember feeling feeling pretty vulnerable skiing the ridge that week, and sick to my stomach when I read about the accident Saturday night.

 

Wind-transported snow can pile up very quickly on leeward surfaces, and while control work, and skier compaction can help to reduce risk, they can never completely eliminate it. IMO, assuming a slide will be less deadly because it occurs in controlled terrain sort of runs contrary to the line of reasoning that I assume the folks who are beeping, and wearing airbags at the resort are following. It's not unusual to see slide activity throughout the season on controlled terrain around here, especially given our notoriously unstable continental snowpack. 


Edited by MT Skull - 10/19/14 at 5:58am
post #88 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

 Yeah, but....

I get what she is saying. With our normally crappy snowpack, I'm not sure I will ever ski the same kind of stuff OB that I love to ski inbounds. 

This is a much more succint way to state my point. I spend a good part of my day inbounds skiing stuff I wouldn't ski in the backcountry with a gun to my head. In bounds, I seek out wind-loaded slopes, wander all around terrain traps, drop cornices, and generally do stuff that I can NEVER see myself doing in the backcountry. But most of us do this stuff in the resort.

We do it because we trust ski patrol and crowds to mange most of the snowpack risk. And in most cases, that is enough. However, it doesn't take much of a release to bury you, or slam you into a tree, or off a cliff. All it takes is hitting one little windloaded pocket among thousands of acres of terrain to ruin your whole day or life.

Last season the snowpack came in very unstable inbounds at Wolf Creek. I skied into lots of crowns in the woods with no evidence they were triggered by patrol. One day, skiing up to "Big Drop" cliff in the Waterfall area (about 40'), I found a 2' crown right at the rollover above the cliff. No evidence patrol triggered. The avalanche ran off the cliff face, slammed into the snow below, and triggered a larger slide there in pretty low angle terrain. The debris ran into a gully and the toe looked quite deep. My heart was racing as I checked the debris, hoping I wouldn't find ski equipment. Thankfully none- naturally triggered. But, that area wasn't even on my radar as a slide risk. The patch above the cliff is very small. Below in the gully, low angle. But it still slid enough to mangle a skier unlucky enough to be there.
post #89 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post


This is a much more succint way to state my point. I spend a good part of my day inbounds skiing stuff I wouldn't ski in the backcountry with a gun to my head. In bounds, I seek out wind-loaded slopes, wander all around terrain traps, drop cornices, and generally do stuff that I can NEVER see myself doing in the backcountry. But most of us do this stuff in the resort.

We do it because we trust ski patrol and crowds to mange most of the snowpack risk. And in most cases, that is enough. However, it doesn't take much of a release to bury you, or slam you into a tree, or off a cliff. All it takes is hitting one little windloaded pocket among thousands of acres of terrain to ruin your whole day or life.

Last season the snowpack came in very unstable inbounds at Wolf Creek. I skied into lots of crowns in the woods with no evidence they were triggered by patrol. One day, skiing up to "Big Drop" cliff in the Waterfall area (about 40'), I found a 2' crown right at the rollover above the cliff. No evidence patrol triggered. The avalanche ran off the cliff face, slammed into the snow below, and triggered a larger slide there in pretty low angle terrain. The debris ran into a gully and the toe looked quite deep. My heart was racing as I checked the debris, hoping I wouldn't find ski equipment. Thankfully none- naturally triggered. But, that area wasn't even on my radar as a slide risk. The patch above the cliff is very small. Below in the gully, low angle. But it still slid enough to mangle a skier unlucky enough to be there.

Good on ya for checking the debris!

 

Last year a split-boarder decided to investigate a fresh slide on Loveland Pass, found a pole in the debris, the strap of which was still attached to a buried tele skier who'd hiked over to the pass from the top of lift one. Pulled the guy out just as he was losing consciousness.

 

We got the call in dispatch from an observer on the pass who saw the split-boarder investigating the debris pile, before the skier had been pulled out, and that was one of those occasions where time seemed to move in slow-motion while responders headed towards the pass. Even with an observer probably within a quarter mile, on a paved road, the guy caught could easily have died if the slpit-boarder hadn't been right there, and curious.

 

Really has nothing to do with the OP, and sorry for the drift, although it's probably worth mentioning that the guy caught had no gear, and maybe accessing the bc from the resort wasn't part of his original plan, but IMO this is why it's important to tour with partners, always have your safety gear in the bc, and let someone outside of your party know at least a rough guestimate of your intended route so SAR has some idea where to start looking when you don't come home, or show up to work, but I'm probably preaching to the choir by now...

post #90 of 276
Quote:
Originally Posted by MT Skull View Post
 

Not sure if you're aware of the proximity of Sheep Creek to IB terrain, or what was going on weather-wise in the months, and specifically the week leading up to the accident, but I don't think it's necessarily accurate to draw the conclusion that they were frigged no matter what. We received a bunch of new snow that week, along with strong winds and some impressive cross-loading. I remember feeling feeling pretty vulnerable skiing the ridge that week, and sick to my stomach when I read about the accident Saturday night.

 

Wind-transported snow can pile up very quickly on leeward surfaces, and while control work, and skier compaction can help to reduce risk, they can never completely eliminate it. IMO, assuming a slide will be less deadly because it occurs in controlled terrain sort of runs contrary to the line of reasoning that I assume the folks who are beeping, and wearing airbags at the resort are following. It's not unusual to see slide activity throughout the season on controlled terrain around here, especially given our notoriously unstable continental snowpack. 


Quite aware of that proximity.

 

Sheep Creek is itself not controlled.  The slide was a hard slab, with an average crown height of 5 feet or so., and part of a cycle of persistent large deep slabs running on depth hoar.  That is to understate it not a typical inbounds slide on open terrain.  As regards airbag packs, perhaps I should have chosen different wording, but while I've taken a lot of heat on here in the past for stating (accurately) that airbag packs are the most effective means of mitigating against getting caught in a slide, they're not really going to help with a hard slab of that nature.  Particularly so when you are dealing with the terrain trap present in the Sheep Creek slide as well, and buried under that hard slab as deeply as some in the party were. 

 

The deep persistent slab involved there is not, for instance, the same as storm or wind slab which is part of what you're referring to.  My point is simply that it was a different and much more destructive class of slide, and, in terms of factoring the ability to mitigate against inbounds slides if someone believes it makes sense in their case, the good news is that airbag packs should be an effective mitigation (though not a get out of jail free card, and by no means a guarantee).

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