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Utah Avalanches - Check Out This Photo

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
In the vein of "continuing education" with regard to the avalanches in Utah over the past few days, I thought I'd post this photo from this morning's avalanche report:

Many of you may recognize this, and many more of you would if the angle were slightly different. This is the Meadow Chutes area on the east-facing flank of Silver Fork canyon. If you were riding up the Honeycomb chair at Solitude, this is the backcountry ridgeline directly west on the other side of the canyon from that lift.

If you've skied Solitude very much, you've seen this area many times as the luscious-looking powder field across the canyon to the west of the ski area.

I posted the picture because if you have a little bit of experience with this particular area, this photo is downright terrifying. I've skied this area many times. The skin track up this ridgeline is in some aspen trees about two hundred yards to the right of the edge of this photo. Where this slide ran is steep, but hardly super-steep. This whole slide path gets skied often and in some ways is considered one of the "safer" places to be in upper LCC/BCC on high hazard days.

The size of this avalanche is just mind-boggling. It obviously extends well beyond the left-hand edge of the photo. The trees in the slide path mean than anyone who might have been caught in this slide (no one was) would not only likely be buried but would also have likely been pin-balled through the trees along the way. Not only that, but this one was big enough that someone skiing the valley-bottom runout back toward the Solitude chairs might well have been in the path as well.

This is a good illustration because there are several sub-routes in this photo that I had considered to be relative safe havens. What this photo shows is that when conditions are ripe, conventional wisdom goes out the door. There is nowhere on this entire ridge that could be called "safe" in these conditions. That's exactly what the Utah avi forecasters were talking about when they said going OB in these conditions was like asking yourself that famous "Dirty Harry" movie question: "Do you feel lucky?"

I just thought this was an interesting photo and shows an area that many people on this board have probably seen.

post #2 of 18
: No kidding about the "conventional wisdom"!!! I've never been in the area, but if someone quizzing me had shown me this exact frame pre-release, I'd have bet money that the tree/glade section on the left was a peachy place to be. If I'd thought hard about it, the mixed conifer/deciduous area in the lower right might have struck me as suspicious...

How tall is the crown wall?

PS - Bob, you really need to stop all this "fear mongering" Not. I'd rate this as highly educational.
post #3 of 18
Wow, I've been there many times, and that is one long fracture line that I would have never guessed would've slid like that ...

Last time I was there the patrolers were using enough explosivs to rival the taking of Faluja. It's scary becuase I too would almost consider this in-bounds terrain (it's so easy to get to).
post #4 of 18
That section does look familier...is that on the "Interconnect Tour" itinerary? Even adjusting the angle a bit, that is not THAAT steep of an area. Scary stuff.
post #5 of 18
Here is a picture of Dutch Draw looking towards the 9990 lift last year. This is the area that slid. Scary to see how many tracks are routinely present in this area. The backcountry gate is just uphill to the lookers left of the lift, and many access the bowl along the flank immediately below the lift.

post #6 of 18
Holy S*^%$! - I know exactly where this is too! Been there many times. Wow, I had no idea ... are you sure this is the area that slid? Or, is is over the back side where the slide was ?
post #7 of 18
nice Bob,
I know that area well and could not believe it tore out that large when WHB bombed it.
like everything else in life timing is everything, and recently has not been the time for the backcountry.
in my man many years of reading and listening to the Avalanche report here, I have never heard the cautionary metaphors laid on as thick as the beginning of this calender year.
post #8 of 18

You should see what some of the slides that came off during control work at Alta last week. We now have a couple of new runs off supreme. A big one came of east castle and blew down pretty much all of the trees between big dipper and Roller Coaster. There's also a nice new chute just south of Vickies. Some of the trees that were taken out in this were close to 200 years old. (175+ Y.O.) Is is from an area the get routine control work. A slide also pulled out above the baby thunder chair at snowbird and there are several trees under the upper part of the chair.

I guess my point is that this avalance cycle is truly epic. We can figure that there are areas like these and the ones you showed, that in 99 of 100 years would be safe, but not this one and in this storm cycle.

post #9 of 18
I was skiing the Bird today and was impressed with the slab slide that had occurred under STH, about 2/3's of the way up. Fracture line looked to be 6 feet deep. It ran into the trees on both sides taking a few out below.
post #10 of 18
Here are some photos from the Utah Avalance Center...


While the photos are from the backcountry, there are several in-bounds slides that did similar work. (All of the areas that slid were closed for control work at the time...)
post #11 of 18
Here is a thread with a picture of the Dutch Draw slide that I poached from DC Ski.

post #12 of 18
I'm surprised that the BLM has not already announced an auction for the salvage value of the trees. I guess that's the next avalanche.
post #13 of 18
Well, one reason is 1). It's not BLM land (forest service) and 2). I think many of the slides occured in the deisgnated wilderness area of LCC.

post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by viking kaj
I'm surprised that the BLM has not already announced an auction for the salvage value of the trees. I guess that's the next avalanche.
You're probably being a tiny bit cynical, but just to address the question.

In addition to Lonnie's comments, these trees are often pretty splintered and mangled and don't make for the best lumber. We had a similar avalanche event in Jackson Hole in 1986. Dozens (probably hundreds) of acres of old-growth spruces got deposited in pick-up-stick piles in the bottoms of gullies around the range. When I hiked to look at one of the piles the following summer, they looked more suitable for chopsticks than two-by-fours.

Amazing photos, Lonnie. There are some awfully familiar ski lines in those photos.

Phil, I never got around to answering your question about the Interconnect. The area in that photo isn't on what would normally be the Interconnect route. It's straight north of Alta, but probably about a mile and a half north of the Alta base. It would be well out of the way if you were touring from Solitude to Alta. The "normal" route from Solitude would be to ride up the Summit lift at Solitude. You would then either take the Highway to Heaven traverse over to Twin Lakes Pass or the Fantasy Ridge boot pack to the top of the Honeycomb Cliffs area. Skiing west (and south) from either of these points would drop you into the Grizzly Gulch drainage, which empties out right at the upper Alta parking lot.

post #15 of 18
Originally Posted by Bob Peters
Amazing photos, Lonnie. There are some awfully familiar ski lines in those photos.
Yeah Bob, I think that's why Bruce posted them....
post #16 of 18
how deep was the slab/fault at the Dutch's Draw slide, anyone know? I don't know the area and therefore can't guess based only on the photo -- have no sense of scale.

never mind... I found it. 6-8 feet.
post #17 of 18

Here's a link to the offical report. 6-8' deep and 700 feet across.


post #18 of 18
thanks Lonnie, those are the pics I was lookin' at.
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