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Spring Avalanches - stay safe out there

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Recent reports of avalanches have me wondering how much risk there is when the weather patterns are odd, as they have been this year,...
Not that we should ever forget about avalanche risk...

links to a couple recent stories
BC
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/03/13/bc-revelstoke-avalanche.html 
http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20100313/Search_BC_100313/20100313/?hub=TopStoriesV2
Arapahoe Basin
http://coloradomountainjournal.com/2010/03/11/avalanche-near-a-basin-kills-snowboarder/
post #2 of 13
 I cant be sympethic towards a group of snowmobilers who died and got hurt in the backcountry high pointing hill when this was issued at exactly the same time.

f you are reading the Canadian Avalanche Centre North Columbia, South Columbia, and Kootenay-Boundary public avalanche forecasts (http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/bulletins/cac-forecasts) regularly, the information here is going to be old news. However, things are so strange out there right now, I feel I should once again give folks a bit of a heads up on the ongoing surface hoarror show. (My brother Mark and I came up with the same “hoarror” pun without knowledge the other was doing it. Scary, isn’t it? Mark was first, so credit goes to him.) 



After a significant decline in avalanche activity in the Columbia Mountains over the weekend, there was a major increase (400%) in reported activity Monday and that number doubled again on Tuesday. The snowpack just keeps tossing curve balls and I've pretty much stopped trying to predict what's going to happen next. Avalanche sizes continue to be quite large. In a very close call yesterday, 5 people were caught and 4 fully buried in a 350m wide size 2.5 avalanche, which occurred when they were travelling on a 5 day old bed surface; 32 seasons in this business, and I think that's a first for me. This is evidence that what’s starting to feel like a never-ending cycle is not finished yet. I’m getting new images of notable and unusual avalanches regularly and am posting them on our new image gallery. Check out this morning’s additions at:
http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/library/...feb-march-2010



After initial indications on the weekend that things were starting to settle down, the most recent persistent weak layer (March 8th surface hoar) went active on Monday with minimal amounts of precipitation: as little as 10-15mm water equivalent/20-25cm fairly light new snow. That’s similar to what happened with the February layers and it’s unusual. Generally it takes 40mm/70cm or so before you’d see this level of increased activity. The February layers have come back to life too. This is now day 28 of high reactivity and/or unusual events on the Feb 8th layer. Crikey! And even deeper layers are suspected in a size 3 avalanche that occurred on March 8th in the Monashees.



The weather forecast suggests a real storm (the first one since so long ago I can’t remember when) is possible later this week, especially in the southern interior. Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it but it’s worth starting to think ahead. There’s quite a lot of uncertainty regarding track and intensity of the storm. In terms of timing though, the next loading cycle looks like it will start Wednesday night and god only knows what havoc that might wreak when it happens. Upslope (W or SW facing slopes) south of the trans-Canada highway will possibly see 20-40mm of water equivalent, which means 30-60cm of new snow. I stress the word possible. But even if we get half that, given the layers we have in the snowpack all heck is probably going to break loose starting Thursday sometime, with elevated levels of reactivity and ongoing weirdness very likely to persist through the weekend. Areas north of the TCH right now look like they’ll get less weather but might still be enough to elevate danger there. And given the uncertainty in the weather forecast, all it’ll take is for the low to track a bit farther north and areas up to Prince George could be affected.



The biggest problems are concentrated exactly on the aspects and elevations where good snow is preserved. Anywhere you are getting good powder riding is highly suspect and should be treated with the utmost caution in the Cariboos, Selkirks, Monashees, Kootenays, and South Chilcotin Mountains. The mountains around Terrace and Stewart are also problematic. 



In the coming days, whether we get the storm or not, it's likely to get trickier before there's any chance of it getting better. I’m going into the mountains tomorrow to start my next guiding shift and I intend to go to great lengths in staying away from large terrain features and places where there is overhead hazard. The current and forecast conditions require a high degree of discipline and constant vigilance to maintain adequate safety margins. In our area, we’ve been riding tracks on the same 20 or 25 runs out of 125 in our tenure since early February and I expect we’ll continue doing that for the next week at least. The number of runs we consider safe might even decrease if the snowfall amounts predicted are accurate. In my CAC forecasts, I’ve been saying that extensive experience coupled with professional level training and safety systems are required to manage risk in most areas. 



I know I'm telling many of you exactly what you don't want to hear but man, it's weird out there right now. 



Karl Klassen

Mountain Guide

Public Avalanche Bulletins Manager

Canadian Avalanche Centre

kklassen@avalanche.ca


sure it freaking sucks people are dead and dieing. The feel for the families and friends.......but . when are we got to stop caring when stupid mobs of people not paying heed to any warning or even carrying avy beacons and knowing how to use them get in avalanches in the backcountry.

60 sleds got buried! 

this is the video of the festival last year exactly what they were doing this year when they caused a slide in EXTREME avalanche conditions.



all I have to say is they had it coming due to a lack of knowledge and or common sense. The only good that will come out of this is hopefully the survivors smarten up and get educated.
post #3 of 13
You know something Bushwhacker, you are either an idiot or a jackass, I can't figure out which. You use phrases like, "they had it coming" and "I have no sympathy". Really you have no sympathy when women and children get hurt??  Are you some sort of Rambo badass or just trying to be cool? Maybe you are so perfect you have never set off a slide of any sort. 

I had a friend at the event, and for the record smart guy, there would have been more people dead, if it wasn't for the avalanche training and fast thinking of the people that survived the slide. Everyone had a beacon and everyone knew how to use it, so there goes that misinformed theory of yours. Now I know that you are a back country god there at Stowe, but people get killed in avalanches even when there are no warnings posted, or they are professionals doing their job. 

Now holding the event in those conditions is questionable, but this isn't the kind of thing you just move to the next weekend. People drive from as far away as AK to go to this event. It is also very easy to sit on your computer and play monday morning quarterback, saying stuff like, "I would never do that I have too much back country experience, yada, yada, yada". Spare me. You may not like snowmobilers, hell I don't like people from Stowe with your attitude, but I would never wish pain and suffering on them. 
post #4 of 13
 I know enough to know I dont know enough to ski BC anywhere with extreme avalanches warnings. Even if I did know enough to do it, I still debate whether risk is anywhere close to reward to be out there skiing or snowboarding with a warning like that.

What I was saying I think alittle too strongly is holding this event with the present conditions despite how big it is was mostly like huge mistake. The problem is could imagine being that guy who has to 'call it" wtih 200 people coming.
post #5 of 13
I thought this thread was more of a warning to everyone, everywhere- not so much as to discuss what happened.  The EC snowpack is more dangerous than it's been in decades, I was even taken off my feet in a slide on the 24th, carried maybe 20 yards and buried up to my shoulders.  While I was fine and it was just a small slide, the danger became quickly apparent at Magic as Redline slid big, Magician kept sliding at the top, and even the woods were breaking loose later in the day- then we kept hearing womps in the woods all day- kind of disconcerting considering we were in southern vermont.  It's not just dangerous on the big slides, and although it's gotten better since that big cycle it's still quite unstable in many places that are normally safe and unassuming.  

Everyone be safe out there.  Anything can happen. 
post #6 of 13
 Another fatal avalanche involving sledders near revelstoke.

http://www.calgarysun.com/news/alberta/2010/03/20/13298726.html 
post #7 of 13

I couldn't follow manchester81's link so I'll just give a recap of the new avalanche as reported by the Calgary Herald. It happened about 6 km from the previous fatality in Eagle Pass and was a level 4 avalanche, human triggered (two snowmobiles riding the hill with a crowd gathered below to watch). Sound familiar? Avalanche danger in the area is still "Considerable".

Here's another link to try (worked for me two minutes ago):

http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/03/20/13302826.html

post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Is the avalanche danger higher because of the interesting snow fall this year, or is this normal risk for this time of year?
post #9 of 13

I believe there are two buried hoar frost layers that are creating considerable weakness in the snowpack. Fresh wet snow on top is helping to generate large slab avalanches. That being said, high marking contests in areas of considerable or high danger seem to be tempting fate.

I know down at Fernie on Tuesday I was seeing some things on inbound slopes that were making me a little nervous (that was before Wednesday brought a frozen raincrust to most of the mountain), and on Thursday I saw what I hoped was an exercise with avy dogs on a fresh slab slide in the gully just off the top of the White Pass chair.

Here is a better media link that includes video of some of the rescue activity:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/all-accounted-for-after-fatal-avalanche-near-revelstoke-bc/article1506606/

and the incident report on the previous avalanche in the area (class three so smaller than the latest):

http://www.avalanche.ca/Default.aspx?DN=ac60b29a-6eaa-40a2-8ea9-373138567eba

and for the obsessively minded the Canadian Avalanche Centre's warning bulletin from just before the Big Iron slide:

http://www.avalanche.ca/uploads/SPAW/SPAW%202010-03-11.pdf


Edited by gnjantzie - 3/20/10 at 9:31pm
post #10 of 13
Level 4, yikes big slide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gnjantzie View Post

I couldn't follow manchester81's link so I'll just give a recap of the new avalanche as reported by the Calgary Herald. It happened about 6 km from the previous fatality in Eagle Pass and was a level 4 avalanche, human triggered (two snowmobiles riding the hill with a crowd gathered below to watch). Sound familiar? Avalanche danger in the area is still "Considerable".

Here's another link to try (worked for me two minutes ago):

http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/03/20/13302826.html

post #11 of 13
Another fatal slide in BC. This time it was a heli ski operator near Valemont. It buried 3 and killed 2. What an awful week.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/03/21/bc-avalanche-heli-skiing.html
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post

Is the avalanche danger higher because of the interesting snow fall this year, or is this normal risk for this time of year?

Snowfall is just a part of avalanches. Anytime you have new snowfall the risk increases. A few weeks ago western CO had 500 reported avalanches after a storm cycle moved through. This was kind of normal for CO snowpack.
post #13 of 13
Although the snowpack this year is particularly bad.  We had snow early, then nothing for a long spell.  It set a bad depth hoar that is, reportedly, part of the problem.  That being said, it is common to have these types of problems in Colorado; we generally have pretty nasty unstable snow.

Mike
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