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Avalanche Tales

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
It seems like slides have been all over the news the last few weeks, especially the in-bounds ones, and it's made me kind of curious.

Who has personally been involved with one?

Share your stories!
post #2 of 22
A few years ago in Fernie, I was skiing in the upper Cedar bowl off the Face lift. The weather had kinda gone for a dive as a storm was moving in, wind was really picking up and it was starting to snow pretty hard. I was alone and skiing the very upper cat track into Cedar Bowl. Directly below Griz Peak I notices some slough coming down over the cat track. I stopped to have a look and woof the cat track was buried in front of me. Now this wasn't big enough to be really dangerous, only a class 1, but it probably had enough steam to knock the wheels out from under me had I been directly in it's path.
I told the first volly patrol I saw and they promptly closed the upper traverse.
Not really an exiting tale, but exiting enough for me.

I've been knocked off my feet several times in sloughs I had set off myself in steeper terrain, but never buried.

I've seen quite a few people caught up over the years. I recent memory I remember coming across a few people hunting for equipment after being hit by a slide also in Cedar bowl. This is at a spot where the traverse starts climbing and people take off their skis and boot pack for a couple hundred meters, it caught them with their skis on their shoulders. That particular spot has caught quite a few over the years.

The snow safety guys here are very experienced and competent. But the odd white dragon does elude them pretty much every year. There are no guarantees, if your out skiing in avalanche terrain there is inherent risks, be prepared.
post #3 of 22
I set a little slab off on one of the trails off the back side of Big Mountain once. I'm not proud of it. I was pretty stupid. It was early in the morning. I was setting first tracks on a trail with a foot or so of fresh. I was skiing alone. As I was going down the trail I came over a knoll where the slope got steeper and a fog bank suddenly cut visibility to about 10 feet. I faded into a traverse to slow down and when I had slowed down enough I just sat uphill in the snow to stop. I could only see one upper thigh sticking out of the snow. As far as I could tell I had come to a stop. I instantly got very sick to my stomach. The two things I thought about at the time were not to throw up on my pants and "how could I get this sick this quick?" After a few seconds I had slid down enough out of the fog bank to see the edge of the slab rippling in the snow. The next thought was "Thank God I'm not sick" (once my eyes confirmed what my inner ear was telling me my stomach stopped complaining). It took me another moment to realize that I was actually in a slide that was still moving and that I really ought to be doing something. Fortunately the trail flattened out and I soon came to a stop on top of a 40 foot diameter, foot and 1/2 thick slab still in one piece. I never even told a lifty. As slides go, this was no big deal. But it was an effective wake up call. One does not often get to make that many stupid mistakes and come out unscathed.
post #4 of 22
I know this sounds like a Road Runner cartoon, but it actually happened. Many, many years ago on a college ski club trip to Jackson Hole our bus arrived at 2:30 am to rain, then the temperature dropped and it snowed 3 ft. Being a Wisconsin boy I didn’t know squat about avalanches.

A friend and I ducked a rope to ski some untracked powder through a glade. The trees got thicker and we could see an opening to our right. I threw a big turn and came rocketing out of the trees on to the top of an icy new slide path. I instinctively turned uphill, stuck both tips into the 4 ft. crown wall up to the bindings, slammed it with my body and fell over backwards without coming out of my bindings. My buddy then came out just above me on top of the crown, which fractured off. I proceeded to slide backwards down the icy slide path with a refrigerator size slab of snow stuck on the tips of my skis and struggling to get my feet and skis downhill. Fortunately the slab stated to break up as I slid and I began grabbing at small pine tree tops sticking out of the slide path. Eventually the entire slab fell off and I was able to grab a tree top to stop. Fortunately I was unhurt.

I have never ducked another rope.
post #5 of 22
This tale was in the Cadillac News Last weekend.


Looks like man's best friend comes through again:
Quote:
1:40 p.m. - Through the howling wind Snider thinks he hears someone yelling. Klondike’s ears perk up and the dog looks down towards the Coleman Gorge. Snider calls work to check if Search and Rescue or Sherri could be nearby. Cox reports that neither Sherri nor Search and Rescue are on the mountain yet.
post #6 of 22
It was my first time in that region this year. Since I had been there many times over the years I should have known to venture in there carefully. I felt a sound that I hadn't sensed is some time, turned to look back then as I looked ahead again it hit me. I was completely blinded as tons of it came down on my head. It knocked me down and took most of my breath. When the chaos stopped I opened my eyes again to see I was OK. Then I picked up all the sweaters, hats, and gloves that had crashed down on me from the top shelves of the bedroom closet!
post #7 of 22
Snowbird about 20 years ago. It had snowed about 30 inches overnight after 2 weeks of nice weather and was a bluebird morning. I was taking the traverse above Peruvian Gulch (high baldy traverse I think it's called?) to get some untracked in one of those chutes up there. I was poling/stepping about 1/3 of the way across a chute when I heard a sound behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw a crack forming in my tracks moving backwards away from me. I turned around and saw the same crack moving away from my ski tips towards the other side of the chute. I leaned/pushed with my feet into the uphill and that set the whole thing sliding, fractured right down to the dirt, while I was sitting on the crown of snow above it. The snow must have slid at least 100 feet with me hanging above it. Once I stopped shaking, I realized that there was no way to ski down that chute since there was no snow left on it. I VERY carefully got up and traversed over to the next chute and skied down it, hoping it wouldn't slide either (which it didn't). I think if I hadn't hopped I might not have sent it sliding. I'll never forget the cracking sound right before it let go...yikes!
post #8 of 22
In all my years in the BC I have never been in anything. That's exactly the point. Common sense and an abundance of caution will give you a long and prosperous BC career. There is no excuse - ever - for being in a situation that is not safe for your travel in the BC. That means many day opting for low angle terrain or not going out altogether.
post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr View Post
In all my years in the BC I have never been in anything. That's exactly the point. Common sense and an abundance of caution will give you a long and prosperous BC career. There is no excuse - ever - for being in a situation that is not safe for your travel in the BC. That means many day opting for low angle terrain or not going out altogether.
Dude, you just seriously jinxed yourself by saying that ignorant "holier than thou" statement! I can't believe that anyone that skis in avalanche terrain (on a regular basis) has never had anything happen! Have you ever heard whompfing, seen shooting cracks, or had a slab break free on a ski-cut? I don't think that you spend much time in avalanche terrain if you justify saying that silly statement!
Be careful out there and remember, most people caught in slides are expert skiers, with avy gear, training, and experience!
"If you wait for perfect conditions, you never get anything done!"
post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr View Post
In all my years in the BC I have never been in anything. That's exactly the point. Common sense and an abundance of caution will give you a long and prosperous BC career. There is no excuse - ever - for being in a situation that is not safe for your travel in the BC. That means many day opting for low angle terrain or not going out altogether.


Quote:
Originally Posted by DropCliffsNotBombs View Post
Dude, you just seriously jinxed yourself by saying that ignorant "holier than thou" statement! I can't believe that anyone that skis in avalanche terrain (on a regular basis) has never had anything happen! Have you ever heard whompfing, seen shooting cracks, or had a slab break free on a ski-cut? I don't think that you spend much time in avalanche terrain if you justify saying that silly statement!
Be careful out there and remember, most people caught in slides are expert skiers, with avy gear, training, and experience!
"If you wait for perfect conditions, you never get anything done!"

Most are caught because of poor judgment. They make mistakes and let peer pressure as well as stoke influence them into a poor decision.
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by DropCliffsNotBombs View Post
Dude, you just seriously jinxed yourself by saying that ignorant "holier than thou" statement! I can't believe that anyone that skis in avalanche terrain (on a regular basis) has never had anything happen! Have you ever heard whompfing, seen shooting cracks, or had a slab break free on a ski-cut? I don't think that you spend much time in avalanche terrain if you justify saying that silly statement!
Be careful out there and remember, most people caught in slides are expert skiers, with avy gear, training, and experience!
"If you wait for perfect conditions, you never get anything done!"
Yeah, If you say so.: Please. Do yourself a favor and try impressing others with that false bravado, and *especially* not around me in the BC, as I wouldn't want to be part of your collateral damage.
post #12 of 22
"I am a perfect driver. There is no reason for me to ever get into an accident!" sounds just about as dumb to say!
post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr View Post
Yeah, If you say so.: Please. Do yourself a favor and try impressing others with that false bravado, and *especially* not around me in the BC, as I wouldn't want to be part of your collateral damage.
It's not false bravado. It's reality. Saying that experts don't get into avalanches is the dumbest thing that I have heard in a long time! That guy obviously is an "arm-chair" BC skier... and his message is dangerously moronic.
post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by DropCliffsNotBombs View Post
It's not false bravado. It's reality. Saying that experts don't get into avalanches is the dumbest thing that I have heard in a long time! That guy obviously is an "arm-chair" BC skier... and his message is dangerously moronic.
DropCliffsNotBombs - I don't think anyone said "experts don't get into avalanches". Of course they do. And Powdr's overall message is a good one ... which is making good safe choices in the BC is the best deterrant to not getting caught in a slide.

Everyone should read this:
http://www.biglines.com/msgbrd/viewtopic.php?t=13987

This guy was buried for 15 minutes. According to current avalanche mortality statistics for length of burial, he should be dead. Lucky for him his friends had a lot of training, knew what to do, and got him out of there in the nick of time.
post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by DropCliffsNotBombs View Post
It's not false bravado. It's reality. Saying that experts don't get into avalanches is the dumbest thing that I have heard in a long time! That guy obviously is an "arm-chair" BC skier... and his message is dangerously moronic.
Since he didn't say "experts don't get into avalanches" maybe you could go back and re-read the post and tell us exactly which part was "dangerously moronic". I manage to get out into the bc pretty regularly and I thought his post was fine.
post #16 of 22
I think I saw statistics where training did not lower the death rate......the guys with the most training do a lot of skiing, and sooner or later the fluke avy will occurr.

I'm out of town for a bit, but I'll tell some stories if I get a chance.

It is a lot like being pounded by a big wave body surfing, but you don't know how it will end.
post #17 of 22
I've also been skiing many years in the BC without stting off an avalanche. I do hear whoomphing, I have seen cracks, and all of the bullseye clues. I back off on terrain when conditions are sketchy and have a good safety record. I have had several friends die in the last few years and don't feel like I am special or expert, it could be me next. I train and pratice often to help the odds. I also don't yeild easily to peer pressure. I personally see nothing wrong with the earlier post and dont understand the flames.
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr View Post
There is no excuse - ever - for being in a situation that is not safe for your travel in the BC. her.
This is the statement that is BS. There is no way to know all the details of the snowpack. Researchers have dug 50 pits on a grid and found even when conditions look good there can be spots which will get you. A forcaster was killed a couple of years ago when an avy took out some 100 year old trees, came up a hill, and buried a snow observation station she was taking measurements from. No excuse EVER to be in an unsafe situation???? I'm calling BS here. The best avy experts in the world will still miss a hazard from time to time.
post #19 of 22
I was backcountry at night trying to get back to camp and when I came out a trail we shoveled a few days before into the clear I could see the lights of camp. As I was traversing along at a nice 35% grade in the moonlight i felt my feet kinda move to the side then next thing ya know I was going the wrong way!: I relized I was in an avalanche and tryed to stay on top going down as fast as i could. as it turned out I was in a slide area luckaly and there were no trees and i was at the tail end of it! I slid down with it for no more than 200yards or so but that was enough for me!! When the momentum stoped I fell and just my legs got baried. I couldnt believe how packed in there I was. Onece I dug my legs out all was well and made it to camp about 200 more yards from were I ended up. I cant emagine how heavy it must be to be totaly barried!! My legs felt like they were concreted in. Thats my only experiance being in one. My job at the time was blasting of corneces for a Dimond Drilling project in the Coast mountain range north of Stewert B.C. from a Helochopter. Lots of fun!! I would drop lit fuesed primed 50lb bags of Amax on to the cornices and then we,d fly back and watch them ripp!!!
post #20 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by newfydog View Post
This is the statement that is BS. There is no way to know all the details of the snowpack. Researchers have dug 50 pits on a grid and found even when conditions look good there can be spots which will get you. A forcaster was killed a couple of years ago when an avy took out some 100 year old trees, came up a hill, and buried a snow observation station she was taking measurements from. No excuse EVER to be in an unsafe situation???? I'm calling BS here. The best avy experts in the world will still miss a hazard from time to time.
You said it!!........... better than I did! Thanks.
post #21 of 22

So much wind, you can't hear yourself think, and that is the problem right there

The visual is what I'm conveying here:

Hiking around the back of a rockpile peak and out onto the ridge/cornice above a large chute facing north. Strong wind has been blowing out of the south for several hours, 3 hours post control. (should have hiked back out right here, substantial wind load evident, but no tracks, what a line!)

Standing on the cornice, engulfed in blowing snow, looking down the chute and can only see a few yards, flat light, swirling snow, powerful wind, can't hear myself think.

decide to drop the soft, small cornice, cut across the top of the chute in a slow traverse, head to a safe spot, and hope in doing so that I can see something while in the lee of the cornice and out of the wind. Half way across the chute, no retreat possible, still no vis, but eerily quiet in the lee with fierce wind and blowing snow just above me, and the snow here is 2' plus.

traversing too slowly (the wisdom about ski cutting a slab gleaned from this near miss) I can't see but 10' out, when I see a crack opening just inches in front of my tips, moving slowly out in front of me as I progress. I'd never really seen this before and was caught up in watching it happen as the crack widened and shot out in front of me, disappearing into a white abyss. Sudden realization! Below me, I could see through the white-out a huge slab, across the entire chute, slowly opening a gap (forming the crown wall, just at my uphill ski) and gaining speed.

I was lucky at this point to have my downhill ski on the ice bed-layer just exposed (faceted layer at the crown, at the top of the chute, with no snow above me to be sympathetically triggered and take me down. I just watched that enormous slab disappear into pure whiteness. It was really quiet when it slid, not a sound really.

Sooo, although this should have been an obvious situation, objectivity failed me in the wind, so I have to say: never say never, as sh** does most certainly happen.

Ski enough storms and it will happen to you. It's the numbers, that's all.
post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by newfydog View Post
This is the statement that is BS. There is no way to know all the details of the snowpack. Researchers have dug 50 pits on a grid and found even when conditions look good there can be spots which will get you. A forcaster was killed a couple of years ago when an avy took out some 100 year old trees, came up a hill, and buried a snow observation station she was taking measurements from. No excuse EVER to be in an unsafe situation???? I'm calling BS here. The best avy experts in the world will still miss a hazard from time to time.
Well, I found the other 4/5ths of Powdr's post to be right on. I kind of breezed through the "no excuse" part and took it to mean that there's no excuse for not taking every safety precaution available. And I still didn't put words in his mouth like DCNB did.

Personally, I think the statement "If you wait for perfect conditions, you never get anything done!" is a gateway to poor decision making.
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