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Questionable avy control?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I skied at Aspen Mtn on 3/18. It was approx 2:50 PM and I was riding the shadow mtn double (lift 1A) I was only a few feet from the top of the lift, there was maybe one chair in front of me that was crossing the unloading area. I then hear 3 LOUD, and I mean LOUD booms to my left, and physically see avalanche explosives going off about 30-40 feet away from me max, and 4 members of ski patrol  covering their ears. If I had to guess, it was about 130 dB, and made slightly less noise than firing a gun without hearing protection. It was loud enough that my ears were ringing. 

 

I get the importance of avy control, I really do. And I assume ski patrol was trying to trigger a wet slab avalanche, which is why they threw 3 explosives at once since they can be notoriously hard to trigger. Based on seeing them laugh after they set them off, I'm guessing they did trigger a slide. 

 

What I don't get is why they were throwing explosives an hour before closing when temps were in the low 40's and there was no significant snow in the week. Disregarding all of that, I don't get why they didn't give a warning of any sort. Not only were my ears ringing but it also scared the shit out of me....

 

I've been on the Sierra Chair at Copper when they've been doing avy work in the union bowl. The charges are loud but seeing as I'm a good 50-75 yards away it's not ear ringing loud. 

 

The explosives were thrown on a different fall line than the lift line, which allowed me to actually see all 3 go off. Since ski patrol was standing a few feet from the edge of the trail, this helped shield them a little bit from the soundwave, but that didn't help my case. 

 

This is a pic of the ski patrollers at the top of the lift right after I got off, the charges were thrown over the edge from where they were standing. 

 

 

 

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive here, but if the I'm the same distance or closer to the charges than ski patrol and they are covering their ears, I'd kinda appreciate a heads up. 

post #2 of 10

Seems like you put some effort in typing this up, but did you actually express your complaint to the patrollers or the other various channels to the resort? 

post #3 of 10

I witnessed avy control a few years back for the first time.  Scared the shit out of me and I wasn't nearly as close as you.  And I said to a friend of mine, shouldn't they warn people somehow?  After thinking about it, I have no idea how you do that..but..it did scare the shit out of me!  :D  So I do sympathize..

post #4 of 10
Aspen's patrol are all pros. Bonney Bell, which is the same aspect as Silver Rush trees pictured, went big and covered Kleenex that afternoon.
post #5 of 10

I guess they have to weight that risk against having poachers killed by an avelanche.

post #6 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiNEwhere View Post
 

I skied at Aspen Mtn on 3/18. It was approx 2:50 PM and I was riding the shadow mtn double (lift 1A) I was only a few feet from the top of the lift, there was maybe one chair in front of me that was crossing the unloading area. I then hear 3 LOUD, and I mean LOUD booms to my left, and physically see avalanche explosives going off about 30-40 feet away from me max, and 4 members of ski patrol  covering their ears. If I had to guess, it was about 130 dB, and made slightly less noise than firing a gun without hearing protection. It was loud enough that my ears were ringing. 

 

I get the importance of avy control, I really do. And I assume ski patrol was trying to trigger a wet slab avalanche, which is why they threw 3 explosives at once since they can be notoriously hard to trigger. Based on seeing them laugh after they set them off, I'm guessing they did trigger a slide. 

 

What I don't get is why they were throwing explosives an hour before closing when temps were in the low 40's and there was no significant snow in the week. Disregarding all of that, I don't get why they didn't give a warning of any sort. Not only were my ears ringing but it also scared the shit out of me....

 

I've been on the Sierra Chair at Copper when they've been doing avy work in the union bowl. The charges are loud but seeing as I'm a good 50-75 yards away it's not ear ringing loud. 

 

The explosives were thrown on a different fall line than the lift line, which allowed me to actually see all 3 go off. Since ski patrol was standing a few feet from the edge of the trail, this helped shield them a little bit from the soundwave, but that didn't help my case. ...

 

 

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive here, but if the I'm the same distance or closer to the charges than ski patrol and they are covering their ears, I'd kinda appreciate a heads up. 

 

I think it's fine to address this with patrol, but please do it in a questioning, not accusatory, manner.  There is a lot more that goes into these things than we know about. Not sure about the protocol with regard to warning guests ... I don't know much about Aspen, but this whole scenario (lots of inbounds wet activity during the season) probably doesn't happen very often. Maybe just close the lift for a few minutes or something. 

 

As for the other, I'm not an expert by any means, but I'm guessing if you want a wet slab to go, you need to do it when it's not frozen, which most likely coincides with the time frame lifts are open. Doesn't matter if significant snow has fallen or not, that's not part of a wet avalanche issue. 

 

I've been at the top of Storm King when they are tossing stuff above Spaulding (that ridge directly ahead when you dismount the Tbar, go right to hit Upper Enchanted and Lillie G, left to hit Spaulding). It's pretty close. Not quite 40 ft, though.

post #7 of 10
You have to blast for wet slabs when they're wet, which means in the afternoon instead of the morning when there's likely to be a crust on top. A few days after a storm during warm temps, melt water can percolate down into the snowpack and 'lubricate' the bed. Snowpacks are dynamic and especially during warm weather can become less stable instead of more so. Timing is crucial, wet slides are a late-in-the-day thing.

I'm not sure how a "warning" system would be set up, other than perhaps on a dry erase board at the bottom of the lift...which no one reads anyway. But it would be pretty difficult to keep those updated as the mitigation efforts move around the mountain.

Relative to the above thought, was that the first blast that was heard during the day, or was it one of a series?

Sounds like that blast gave you quite a start, but perhaps knowing that it was part of a long and arduous effort to keep you and others safe might provide some comfort. It might help to let patrol know that you were very startled - but don't go to the blasting group, go to the patrol shack and ask for a supervisor.
post #8 of 10
I was thinking about the dry erase board thing, too, and how they are never read.
post #9 of 10

Fire in the hole?  Air horn?  Dunno..  Maybe it's normal and I should just suck it up.  :)

post #10 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott43 View Post
 

Fire in the hole?  Air horn?  Dunno..  Maybe it's normal and I should just suck it up.  :)

Mostly this. Most control work is done far enough away that the noise may be startling, but not as loud as described. 

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