I arrived at the village this morning along with all twenty thousand of my closest friends. The transportation center looked like a scene from a zombie movie with bodies slowly moving in all directions, no one really knowing what to do. The scene at the Vista Bahn was not much better so I made my way to Golden Peak to avoid the masses.
Having an hour until my partner was free to ski, I opted to head to beacon basin to do some drills. At the beacon park I was approached by a man in red named Bill who is the individual responsible for maintaning the park. We discussed the great facility that BCA and Vail have teamed up to provide the skiing community with. He was gracious enough to spend some time explaining and demonstrating the proper use of the SP function on my new Tracker 2.
The Tracker 2 is a three antenna beacon, extremely fast in locating single burials. The SP function is used for multiple burials and takes more practice and skill to master.
After a good session at beacon basin, Martineast showed up and we began our jaunt out to the Vail sidecountry. The plan was to go checkout the snow around the Mushroom Bowl area and find a safe line to ski, keeping in mind that if things seemed nasty we would turn around and ski some low angle pow through Outer Mongolia.
Since 21 was closed we started our skin at the back of Two Elk through the lunch crowd, always an entertaining show. The longer skin was welcome, stretching out the legs and getting away from the crowds.
At the Orient Express summit we were shocked to spot a group of five sneaking behind China Wall. With all the action happening lately in the Kitchen area of Mushroom Bowl, I was surprised to see a group entering such a loaded high energy slope. It is very hot in the kitchen and will most likely remain that way for the remainder of the season.
After looking into the slice of the bowl where the travelers’ disappeared and seeing and hearing nothing incriminating, we continued our ski out to the Poma. We were greeted by the pleasant site of an empty back of the resort as 21 and 22 were closed for the day. We took a few moments to enjoy the Gore view and continued our way up.
I reached the crest of the skin Marty waved me over and showed me what is to date one of the most impressive things i have seen. If you look closely you will see the line from a mouse and then the mark from a bird of preys’ wings, a true “sick bird”. After examining the natural art work, it was just a few more strides before we arrived at our decision point.
We were far away from the Kitchen and into the lower angle section of the bowl that lacks the steep open tree chutes The top turns were low angle and we had no indicators in the upper twenty degree mellow section, so we continued our run.
We skied from high point to high point, avoiding extended straight, open fall lines, which were few and far between in this section of the bowl.
Our biggest concern was the low snow and the endless pits, covered logs and traps along the way. Ended the run hooting down the to the track, groomed from the recent rescues and fast.
Had a great day out there as a result of confidence in my skiing, partner, equipment, and decisions. Mushroom Bowl is a large area and the stability of the snow varies from spot to spot. We chose a low angle, heavily treed area and had a decent run. We stayed far away from the steep open chutes and significant cliff drops that have resulted in the two recent accidents and one close call that the CAIC has reported on.(EVI note, the number of caught and buried is up to four according to the temporary info boards set up at the Poma)
With much of Vail’s side country suspect, other avenues of adventure await. Try going for a skin on Meadow Mountain or practice your beacon skills. Read a snow safety book; “Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain” my personal favorite. Maybe ski with your girlfriend. Remember there has been a ton of activity in the last few days, no need for more.
If you go make sure you are confident in not only your skiing but also your partner and usage of your gear most importantly your brain the most important piece of safety equipment. One more thing dont be a dick out there no more yelling its skiing theres no yelling in skiing.
The trip to EV on Friday was an interesting one. Without a doubt best pow turns of my season, however it was also the most high stake avi danger day as well. Had multiple signs of weak snow pack, wind, numerous whoomfs, cracks, and even triggered a few small slides on both open faces and trees north-through-east. The aspect skiers right of our line had slid rather large and rather disturbingly as it is a line I have skied weekly in past seasons. Martineast recapped the day well here and I only regret not having a camera to take some shots.
In an effort to feed the need Saturday, I went out all geared up for another EV lap, keeping in mind I would most likely be turning back and skiing in-bounds with a fully loaded pack. After some quality lift chair time I reached the top of Sourdough and decided I’d keep my self busy with some beacon training and to check the snow to see if the drop in temperature had improved the snow pack.
After beacon basin, I searched to find areas which represented the terrain I had been skiing yesterday and just as I had expected, the snow was still rotten — super rotten. Below are pics from a “hasty pit” I dug in a north-east facing tree’d area similar to the terrain and aspect where I had encountered the most activity two days prior.
Looking at the photos, you do not need to be a snow scientist to understand what is causing the high risk conditions in our surrounding area. Keep in mind, this photo was taken on a treed northeastern slope, the same aspect as many tree lines in EV.
The photo above with the shovel clearly illustrates the newly fallen snow on a super consolidated layer created by warm temps and wind supported by an extremely faceted snow layer. After digging and looking at the snow I was convinced to turn around.
With the newly fallen snow Saturday night / Sunday morning, it will be hard to resist heading out for some fresh turns. The already crazy high avalanche danger persists. This pit shows that even in the trees and in areas we may think are safe, we aren’t. Stay inside the ropes for now…