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Avalanche near Sugarbowl

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
In case you heard on the news about an avalanche at or near Sugarbowl this weekend, Various rumors have been floating around.

I just found the incident report.
incident report

The report says all members were carrying beacons. The partrol reports I heard say they did not know how to use them.
post #2 of 9
Those caught in the avalanche were close friends of mine. Yale Spina and Jerry Puryear and Gerilyn Ewing were all expert skiers, in fact the two men were past professional skiers. It was there first overnight backcountry experience that they had planned for months. They all had beacons, probes, and shovels and DID know how to use them. It is unfortunate that they are being made to look like they didn't. During their search with the receivers they were getting some conflicting signals and being in the excited state they were in, one of them called for assistance from an expert that might have been able to offer more help or a solution. This call was interpereted as ignorance rather than panic for the most expediate way to find the burried skier. These people are not stupid and I would trust my life with anyone of them.

Services for Gerilyn Ewing are at St. Marie's Hospital on this friday at 3pm
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Bud, Thanks for the clarification. An unfortunate event and our hearts go out to the families and those involved. As always, it helps to have all the facts. Too bad so much wrong info came out in the early reports.

post #4 of 9
very tragic. My prayers go out to your friends and the family of the victim.
post #5 of 9
Thanks for the clarification Bud, I had heard a number of different stories about the experience level of the skiers. Very sorry to hear you lost a friend.

The lesson I take away, which is one I already know to a certain extent, is that beacons don't equal safety in avalanche terrain. Even if you are skilled at using it and practice often, nothing can prepare you for an actual rescue. How often do we practice on 1000' 35 degree slopes? (just as an example, at ESA we all practiced on nice flat ground outside the hotel, I suppose that's better then nothing, but still not realistic at all compared to a real rescue scenario).
post #6 of 9
Sorry to hear about this. Seems that beacons have sadly been used this year to recover bodies vs saving a life.
post #7 of 9
Originally Posted by bud heishman
Yale Spina and Jerry Puryear and Gerilyn Ewing were all expert skiers, in fact the two men were past professional skiers.
I stayed at Benson Hut (with a guide) half a decade ago when I had first started backcountry skiing. I already had been an expert skier for decades and had been coaching alpine racing for over a decade. That did not contribute at all to my avalanche safety (and if anything probably created the dangerous tendency to seek out steeper terrain that my skiing skills could handle, but that my avy evaluation skills could not).

Anyway, here's an excerpt from yet another popular press account:

[Randall] Osterhuber [a director with the rescue team who helped with
the recovery effort], who had been teaching an avalanche safety course on
Summit that Sunday morning, said the new snow from the recent storm
fell on top of layers of snow that had not bonded well – making the
slopes ripe for avalanches.
"That morning was one of the most unstable mornings in my ski career,"
he said. "Everything we touched avalanched. Everything avalanched
naturally. Forty feet out of the car I knew it was a pretty special
day – it was a good day for accidents to occur."
He said skiers venturing into the backcountry should have taken extra
caution under such extreme conditions.
"The signs were not subtle and they were everywhere," he said.
Full story here:
http://www.rgj.com/news/stories/html...sp7=umbrel la
post #8 of 9
I've heard a lot of conflicting things from people "in the know", including people who knew members of the party, like bud, and SB patrol and local S&R regarding the skills of the party members. I'll accept bud's account, as he certainly seems to have the best knowledge of their skills.

What I don't understand, though, is why, with very heavy/wet recent snow (20 in. or so in the several prior days) on top of what had to be a hard layer, given the recent temps, why pick this time for a BC trip? I also don't understand (and assuming the report I heard is true, which I don't know for sure), why would experienced people let three skiers be on the same aspect at the same time?

In any event, it is a sad thing, and my my sincere condolances go out to the friends and family of the woman who was killed. It is certainly a somber reminder that even the experienced can find trouble unexpectedly. I hope this doesn't alter the recent trend in Tahoe toward open boundries. I didn't know Gerilyn Ewing, but I would have to think that would be the last thing she would have wanted.
post #9 of 9
My heart felt thoughts go out to family and friends for their loss.
Sunday was a dangerous day in the Sierra. The Pros had triggered numerous slides during their AC work at da Bowl Sunday morning, with an ominous slide in Hari Kari Gully, and various other slide paths.
We all need to seat back and realize at times like this that,"In nature there are neither penalties or rewards, only consequence."
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