Moving snow reports 2/20-2/24

Well it has been an active week for the EVI crew. Seven inches Sunday night with high winds loaded EV with probably triple that amount of low density but wind whipped snow. The cornice sizes above old mans and benchmark were indicators or just how the prevailing winds were favoring loading of north through west aspects. Monday was especially active, as our morning run in Old Mans saw Big J set off small slab underneath the cornice on the scarp. A small soft slab about 20 meters across and foot deep broke on his second turn and carried him toward the right side of the run. Down below I was able to see him get white roomed and pop out unscathed, but undeniable indicator that the new and old snow interface wasn’t on the same page. The windslab was active and old mans was grumpy. The snow was splashy and deep faceshots and thigh deep fresh.

Second run I went back solo to benchmark and teed it up left side of mushroom rock, through the choke. Upper left of Benchie had ran abut a third of the width of the upper run about 50 yards down on the new soft slab. Able to run it fast and got through the left side slot with no problems and skied the rest of the run in glorious pow, cutting over to the ridge and ended up skiing the trees on the north ridge down.

Third run I hooked up with Paul from EVI and went back to Old Man’s for another go at the right side. Although John had set off a small wind slab our first run, the right side had skied very well and with the cornice kicking we had done the first run, I figured we could safely enter and hug the right side by the trees and enjoy the goods. I had Paul go first and directed him to stay right on the ridge after the entrance and not test the first gully left in to the skier’s left of old mans, a convex, roll over into a gully that steepens in excess of 35 degrees with a small cliff crowning the skier’s left. It acts as a thin spot in the slab and if you ski by it can act as a trigger.

In my time I have seen Old Man’s rip in various spots and with varying results. From small sluffs to the entire bowl, old mans is as active a part of EV as any. It demands respect and knowledge to test it, especially in the middle and the far skiers left known as CDC. This area in particular is responsible for a number of close calls, injuries and fatalities in the years I have skied in EV. Protocol, decision making and big mountain skiing skills are required to get in and out fast, in the right area and at the right time anywhere in EV but especially in Old Mans on a black flag day.

Paul dropped in and followed the ridge to first bench without incident. However instead of hugging the right side, Paul ventured into first gully skier’s left by the rock and triggered a soft slab that pushed him down and took his ski. At about 3 feet deep although it was only fifty feet across, it packed a punch and ran to the flats.  Video of the slide from Paul’s perspective was posted a few days ago, and it’s worth a look.

Being on top and watching the toe of the slide emerge with no sign of Paul was a tense moment. I took a deep breath and reached for my beacon. I had a decision to make. If Paul was buried, of course he needed my immediate assistance. If he was just wallowing, my dropping in would put him at risk for a second slide and put us both in danger. Two people in the zone at the same time was a last option. I hollered and waited, giving myself ten seconds to either let him get his shit together or drop.  Just as I was about to hit receive on my tracker, I saw his pole wave up behind the roll over, signaling he was still above the surface. His ski was 300 feet below sticking straight out of the snow. Lucky on all accounts, a thigh deep day on one ski would take hours to get out.

Paul was lucky, he made a mistake and got off easy. If the slab was big or would have ripped above him, things would have been much worse. In my experience in guiding formally or informally, the human factor is the hardest variable to control. Powder frenzy, nerves overconfidence are things which are impossible to control. If you point out hazards to people, inevitably someone will ski into or wherever or whatever you have specifically pointed out not to ski into or towards. Human nature. Paul is ok, that’s all that matters really.

Tuesday I was worked and managed only a single but amazing run on King Aurthurs. The weather was dramatically better, with calm winds, blue skies and moderate temps. It was nice to take a solo run and tour into the old growth pines up to the crown. A fair number of tracks, but stability was much improved in the sheltered tree chute, and snow was still amazing. Thoughts from the day before had me close to the right side trees and wary of the superhighway size slide path that is the King A’s run. The snow warranted a second and even a third run, but I was crushed from the day before and had to take it easy.

Got a surprise message Thursday from our EVI slednecker Tdiz from Vail pass reporting a sled triggered slide under the main cornice up on ptarmigan ridge. North facing and wind loaded the two foot crown spanned about 100 feet across, triggered when Tdiz was sidehilling underneath the cornice. Notice a pattern in instability? Windloaded areas under cornices touchy. Be careful out there all and with new snow coming this week watch for more activity to come.

Also we will have videos and pictures uploaded in the next couple days of these recent EV runs. Check back and see for yourself what’s going on out East.

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