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Your worst days at your resort - Page 2

post #31 of 36

Had a similar frozen day at Mt. Baker several years ago.  It had rained hard and then frozen hard.  All of the relief had been rained off of the slope so that everywhere was smooth, very hard ice.  I was chaperoning for the Saturday ski bus.  I remember seeing a ski patroller standing at the top of North Face hooked into a sled waiting for someone to hurt themselves.  It didn't inspire confidence.


I also remember the sound of helicopters more than once that day.  Not for back country skiers, but for medical evacuation.  The lodge looked like a hospital ward there were so many messed up arms and shoulders (lots of boarders at Baker).  I quit after one run and sat in the lodge with the other adults all day.  Luckily none of my kids were hurt.

post #32 of 36

It was the day after Jackson closed and it was an employee ski day. The resort ran the gondola, Thunder chair and the tram for us that day, so what did we do? We went out of the gate at the top of Rendezvous Bowl. We skied over to a chute just outside the gate to the south called Spacewalk. We were a group of 4. Spacewalk has a little rock about 50 yards downhill from where you ski into it. About an 8-10 ft drop on a 50+ degree pitch. I had skied it many times and knew how to set up the drop so the run out didn't push you into the cliff face to either side. I'm skiing into the drop area kinda slow so I could make the drop clean and one of my skis comes off. I tried to recover and get stopped, but no luck. I hip checked to keep from running into the rock face to my left and my boot dug in. The next few seconds seemed like forever. I fell head first downhill, and flat on my belly. I got to the drop moving fast and sailed off of it still head downhill and flat on my belly and Supermaned off. The landing started me tumbling. Every few seconds, I could get my feet downhill and attempt to self arrest. Unfortunately, I was moving too fast and digging my feet in just pitched me into the air again. As I tumbled, I would get little glimpses of the cliffs on either side and try to drag a foot to pull me away from the rock. After falling forever, I came to a stop in a sitting position. My buddies were all looking at me with a concerned look on their faces, so it must have looked bad. I was OK. In the process I had lost both skis, my goggles, one of my poles and all of the gear in my pack. So that is just a day in the life so to speak. The "Your worst day at your resort" part? Bootpacking back up the damn thing to fetch all of my gear.  

post #33 of 36

Worst day at my resort was a few years back when we got a horribly upside down 60" storm cycle. The 60" wasn't a problem, but the upside down snow sure was. Upside Down snow is when the first part of the storm is light fluffy low density stuff that wetter heavier snow follows. When you ski it, the fluffy layer collapses causing you to sink into the snowpack, while the wetter layer acts as drag. If the snow was dry all the way through, it wouldn't impede you, if it was wet all the way through, it would support you and you wouldn't sink so far. Generally not a problem until you get to the point of truly bottomless snow of 3' or more.


Anyways, I did some warmup runs with my wife staying mostly to cleared runs, then I ventured into Alberta. I got stuck on the way, but told myself it was because I was skiing low angle stuff. Everyone else on the mountain was either sticking to other's tracks or opening up lines by playing leapfrog- one skiers points skis downhill until they get stuck, the next skier follows their tracks until they pass the stuck skier and skis until they get stuck, and so on until you get to the bottom.


Me, I decide I am smarter and know the terrain so well I don't have to do this. I pick a line about 75 feet off the chairlift, confident that before I get to a flatter portion I can get back to tracks under the lift. Venturing off the cat track, I quickly sink like a rock above my waist. I find to move, I have to first move snow with my hands down to my knees, then I can manage to lift my leg and kick a ski forward. It takes me 5 minutes of work just to get the 30' to where the line starts to pitch down to maybe 40*.


I ski down the 40* pitch section for maybe 200' before it starts to flatten out. As soon as it flattens to around 35*, I am grinding to a halt with my skis pointed straight down the hill. I find myself stopped in a hugely awkward thigh burning position- stopped on a pretty steep slope with your skis pointed right down blows your quads up quick.


I find myself hopelessly stuck and about a quarter mile from the lift line. 118 waist skis might as well have been slalom- they just won't float and thus won't move. I takes about 3 hours for me to get back to the lift- every step clearing snow with my hands, lifting my skis with lots of effort, kicking them forward, doing the same drill. It feels like shoveling 5 feet deep snow by punching and kicking it.


I called my wife to let her know where I was, and she called ski patrol. They got to me by skiing down my tracks, still the only tracks anywhere near me. Two patrollers came down and helped me break track back to the lift line. By the time I got there, I was shaking with over-exertion and cold- I had been continuously tits deep in snow for several hours. I got frostbite on the tips of several toes on both feet- fun.  

post #34 of 36

Another one that's not at a resort.  A couple of years ago I was very anxious to try out the whole backcountry thing and slowly cobbled together a rig.  I couldn't wait to try it out and set out on two days of vacation in March.  The first day I was meeting some friends at Killington which turned out to be a pretty good day of skiing.  The weather for the next day was calling for rain and about 43 degrees.  I figured that the snow had been pretty good over the last couple of weeks and the rain wouldn't deteriorate it that quickly.  So I woke up really early with my new backpack, skins, AT boots, and skis mounted with Dynafits and left my hotel for the 2 hour drive to Mt. Cardigan in NH.  The rain kept getting heavier as I neared the trailhead in my little sedan.  The road to the trailhead is unplowed so I had to inch along to the trailhead making the trip a good 45 min longer than expected.


As I was gearing up there was a steady rain falling but hueristics got the better of me and I convinced myself to at least practice some skinning.  It was difficult to feel the quality of the snow with skins on so I felt elated by finally getting out and "earning my turns."  I reached the point in the trail where the ski run began and took a good 30 min to transition back to skiing mode (being new to this I didn't have a great system down as of yet).  Staring at me was a glazy thick rain crust of VW Beetle-sized moguls interspersed with tree roots and flat out bare spots.  The bare spots looked like a better place to turn than whatever snow was covering the trail.  I began to slowly point my skis 45 degrees to the fall line and took off like a rocket.  I was immediately thrown into the backseat and skied the whole run like a beginner Z turning down the hill trying to get whatever weight I could over the tips to initiate the next turn.  Fortunately the slope wasn't steep, maybe 20-25 degrees but it was narrow and constantly winds back and forth.  Somewhow with my survival skiing I made it down the run without falling.  Ironically that run probably helped me improve as a skier quite a bit.


Transitioning back to skins I hike down the foot trail to get back to my car.  As I'm nearing the parking lot I see the departure for the other ski trail on the other side of the mountain.  It is even less steep and more wide open.  Rain continues to fall and I figure what the hell I'm already wet so let me practice a bit more.  I skin up that trail about a quarter of the way and transition; this time it only takes me about 25 minutes and try and make a few (which is all of my gonna get) more turns before the end of the day.  I start skiing and the crust grabs my weighted ski and pulls it under resulting in a faceplant.  I tell myself this can't be right I'm just catching some bad areas of snow and like someone who keeps touching a hot stove I repeat this process for another hour or so with the same faceplant result each time.  In the backcountry by myself.  Stupid.


I finally accepted that it wasn't the right day to be skiing and hiked backed to my car feeling completely beat up and exhausted for the 5-hour drive home.

post #35 of 36
Originally Posted by DanoT View Post

My worst day happen 40 years ago and I posted he story about 5 years ago in a tree well thread. Since it is the start of a new season, thinking about tree well safety is probably a good idea, although this is a bad story.


I'm not sure how to do a link to the story so I will just paste it:


Ok here is my tree well story. It is tragic and very bazaar...and it happened 35 years ago.

It was my first year ski bumming at Tod Mountain (now called Sun Peaks) and my second year skiing in the West. I had no clue about tree wells and no thoughts as to how thick the snow pack was that we were skiing on.

I got on the chairlift that morning with a guy that I had seen around a couple of times earlier that season. I learned that his nick name was Peaches and he was a former Pro Ski Patroller who had recently got married and moved to Vancouver and now had a real job. I did not know that he was a Guest Patroller that day ( I did not even know what a Guest Patroller was).

Peaches invited me to join him skiing his favourite tree run, Gill's Hill, which was not on the ski area map. So off we went enjoying the more than a foot of fresh snow that had fallen in the past few days. When we got to a terraced or benched area we stopped on the flat top of a bench. We could see one more bench below us and then the 5 Mile beginner run below that. I now knew where I was on the mountain so I thanked Peaches for showing me the run and I took off leading the way down the run for the first time. As I looked over my shoulder to see if Peaches was following me I could see that he was actually going along the flat part of the bench at right angles to the fall line toward some tighter trees at slow speed and slightly off balance.

A couple of turns later as I hit the transition to the next flat bench top I started to lose my balance but I fought to recover and didn't fall. In hindsight if I had fallen I may have been close enough to Peaches crash that I might have realized what had happened to him. Instead I continued on down to the 5 Mile run and waited for Peaches. When he didn't emerge from the trees a number of thoughts entered my mind as I called out to him without getting a response. How far is my voice carrying? Is he hurt? I did thank him for the run and did that also mean good bye and see you later so no waiting for each other? Did he have some other secret way to finish the run? It was too far to climb back up in deep snow so I waited long enough for him to put skis back on if that was the problem and then I skied to the chairlift.

I asked the liftee if he had seen Peaches get on the chair recently and the answer was no. So while riding the chair I debated with myself if I should contact the Patrol. I eventually decided that I really didn't have any actual information to give to the Patrol so instead I skied back to the spot where I last seen Peaches. What I found in the flat light were his tracks on the flat of the bench that ended just above a good sized evergreen tree. As I already said I had no idea about tree well or soft snow danger so I assumed that he had done a kick turn in his own tracks and gone in the other direction and the flat light made the rest of his tracks sort of hard to distinguish. What had really happened is that he fell into the well, likely hit his head on the tree and all of the snow laden tree branches unloaded on him.

I went in for lunch and asked around if anyone had seen Peaches but no one had. I even went up to
a Ski Patroller and related my story. He said don't worry Peaches is an excellent skier and probably had some other exit out of the woods that he took. Later in the day I asked a cafeteria worker if she had seen Peaches and she said she had. When I asked if she had seen him in the am or pm she paused for a moment and said pm. She was wrong, but I did not know this so I assumed that everything with Peaches was ok since we had done our run in the morning.

About 5 days later I get a knock on my door in the evening and it is the Ski Patrol along with a Volunteer Patroller who is also an RCMP Search and Rescue Dog Handler. It turns out that Peaches had been staying, as he often did, with a friend down the valley about 20 minutes from the mountain. When Peaches did not return to the friend's place the first few nights he did not worry as Peaches would often overnight at the mountain if there was a late party. But after 5 days he called up to the mountain to see what had happened.

We went up the 5 Mile in snow cats and sled and then hiked up to the lower bench at which point the rescue dog was let loose. The dog went straight to the completely buried body and started digging. Peaches, who was 6 feet tall, was upside down on the low side of the tree with his ski bases pointed to the sky but covered by a foot of snow. His head was 7 feet below the surface and his nose was plugged with snow and there was a cut on the top of his head.

A short time later I got subpoenaed to appear at a coroner's inquest. My testimony was pretty much what you have just read. The head of the Ski Patrol also got a subpoena and it was revealed that Peaches had signed in as a Guest Patrol and that his street shoes were in the Patrol Shack and his car in the parking lot,  yet it had taken 5 days and a phone call from a friend down the valley to discover that Peaches had gone missing. The head of the Ski Patrol was devastated by events and as well Peaches was a good friend of his. The head of the Patrol resigned and took up Nordic skiing.

I determined that I needed to increase my big mountain awareness so I took a first aid course and became a Volunteer Ski Patroller and later a Pro Patroller. I didn't stick with the patrolling because for me it turned skiing into a job and not enjoyment but that is another story.

One thing people should realize about tree wells is that they are not really empty, but are filled with the lightest of snow. The snow near a tree well will be very soft and light from skis not tracking up and compressing the snow, but inside the well the snow is even lighter because as the snowflakes fall around a tree the flake's decent is slowed as they hit higher up tree branches and then the flakes land  more softly.

I hope this post and this thread help others pursue mountain respect and awareness.

Wow, sad story DanoT,


I got a bit freaked out at Whitefish a few years ago when we lost my girlfriend, Robin on what was to be the last run of the day.  Turned out she went down on a groomer with a friend who was not so great a skier where the rest of our group had turned off into the trees and we all thought she was with us.  Her phone battery was dead but after a bout of panic and getting the patrol involved etc... someone finally got in touch with someone who was with her back at the Kandahar lobby drinking bloody marys.  Phew!


A week after we were there, a long-time, expert skier died in a  tree well in an area between 2 runs we had skied several times.

post #36 of 36

Does it count if my worst day skiing was in the summer?


In Breck the top of Peak 10 is called the 4th of July bowl and it typically holds snow year round. One August we decided to go ski it for the first time and head out in my Jeep. I had only had the Jeep for about 6 months and was excited to also do some wheeling. The bowl is pretty much one giant scree field and instead of hiking to the snow field we decided to take my jeep across it to the bottom of the snow field. We get out do a couple of laps and then the weather starts to turn on us, so we call it a day and pile back into the jeep. As I am driving down the scree field we suddenly here a giant crunch and the Jeep jerks to a halt. A boulder had rotated under the jeep and wedged into the under carriage/armor plates and the jeep could not be moved.


So now we are stuck on the top of the mountain with a storm rapidly approaching and the only tool I had with me to get us unstuck was a high lift jack. If you have never used one they are pretty much the sketchiest piece of equipment you use in off roading, they are capable of lifting cars as high as 4-5 feet. Their base is also a plate that is only about 2"x2" so the vehicle is very precariously balanced and them slipping and dropping a vehicle several feet is not an uncommon occurrence. When I use one I refuse to allow anyone else near the vehicle, so I'm working on trying to get the Jeep on stuck while 3 other people are sitting there watching me on the top of a mountain in the middle of a storm and that's when we start hearing thunder. I start to get really worried as 20 minutes latter I have not yet been able to dislodge the boulder and we are now in the middle of a thunderstorm. Finally, I get it out we pile in and get the hell out of dodge. Luckily the lightening never sounded like it crossed over to our side of the mountain range but it was not a fun experience.           

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