EVI has learned that a Vail local has died today in an avalanche in East Vail. A four pack headed out to the old man’s bowl and triggered a wall to wall slide that buried the deceased and injured 3 companions. Early reports indicate one companion suffered broken ribs while the extent of the injuries of the other two are unknown. We here send our deepest condolences to the family of the deceased, and that quite frankly seems horribly inadequate.
Sunday’s storm came in with high winds and cold temps. The small sharp densely sintered grains produced a slabby feel to the new snow, especially on the ridge lines and upper wind affected cross loaded N facing areas. It was a change from the several days of 3 to 4 inch storms that came with little wind and mild temps which produced light blower snow, resulting in a snowpack that was upside down.Dense storm wind loaded storm snow on top of a base layer of loose facets is a dangerous situation. The first signs of localized instability during was a slide in T-falls two days ago, which I have little information on.
Skier accounts today indicated that before the slide the old man’s area looked fluted, with mini spines in the bowl itself, a sign of serious wind affect. Same observer dug a hasty pit on an E aspect, different than the N aspect of Old Mans but found serious instability with a score of CT 2 on a quickie column test. Old Mans usually runs wall to wall at least once a year. This year parts of it ran early, but not the whole thing. Critical load was reached with this storm and skier traffic. The slide seemed to originate from the CDC area, stepping down from a thin spot in the new wind slab to the ground by a large rock on skiers right in the hourglass entrance of CDC. It’s the same trigger spot that has claimed others lives as well.
Driven out of Vail like the mighty lynx out of Cat 3 , I, Martineast found myself on the road in search of new terrain. The factors had come down from the universe and it was time to go. Really the death of the Visti Bahn was too much to bear. For me, that signaled an end of an era in Vail history and for me personally, my stint in Vail. That’s right, EV won’t have Martineast to kick around anymore. I look forward to the first report of conditions, I expect another touchy year with the early snowpack resembling last years’ junk underneath, but I can’t tell you for sure.
Wyoming, Utah, Idaho. Drove through all of these and had the urge to keep going. Washington. Pac-NW it is. Mt. Baker sounds good, why not? World record snowfall, middle of the Northern Cascades. No Condos, 125 dollar tickets or fur stores. A sick little resort resort tucked away from the world high in the Northern Cascades. Bellingham, the closest real town, is 50 miles away.
Different from Vail? About as radically different as you can get. Land of moss, weed, wool and hanging seracs. Volcanoes, ice, crevasses, glaciers. At the end of WA-542, Mt. Baker sits below Mt. Shuksan, an imposing Cascade wedge with a massive serac hanging from it. A couple day lots, couple of base areas and that’s it. Possibilities for backcountry around Baker. Endless. When you can see, that is, as weather is a constant off the ocean. Literally, the end of the road. Next stop B.C.
It’s been a long time since anything inbounds has required a second look to ski. I’ve been lulled into complacency by our wonderfully groomed golf course. Baker, however, has it all over. Better bring your A-game. Steep slots and trees runs, roll overs exceeding any point of repose in Colorado. Covered ice, rime spines, snow ghosts. Sidecountry that dwarfs the resort. Bottom line, if planet Hoth had a ski area it would be Baker.
Spent time out the gate my first afternoon to check out the snowpack. Dug my pit on a North facing 28 degree angle slope just above the gate, right off the skin track. Snow total, 305 cm depth on December 13. T his was before the current four foot snow cycle that has since closed the road. Results on my two columns dug to 160cms: CT-build a house out of it. Incredulous at the results of my first attempt at column failure, I recut and dug the second with the same result. It took all my weight and pulling on the second column as well to get a Q2 shear at 130 cms, way off any scale. Cascade snow pack is for real. I’m sure things have changed of late, our latest cycle has come with big wind, so we’ll see the impact of that. (63 inches in 4days, 100 plus trees down on the road up. Resort, I mean ski area, is closed for three days to clean up and dig out, truly a wild place on earth.)
Learning a new area isn’t overnight. I have no comfort level with the backcountry terrain here. My initial day had good vis and what I could see just on an EV length jaunt outside the area was vast and varied. Trees and spines, convex rolls and chutes endless are calling. In due time. It was good just to get my hands in snow and get a general idea of local conditions.
Here to relearn it all. I guess that’s the reason for the move. Look forward to the posts from Vail, Luke in Jackson, Me in Baker. EVI worldwide. Note: we plan on being in AK again if the snow shapes up, so stay tuned…
Out in to the 11 inch day at Vail yesterday on my day off. Skied inbounds for a couple nice runs and then headed out to see the conditions in EV. We seem to have avoided the big winds predicted for Wednesday and the new snow was accompanied by warm temps and layered in the resort like spackle. After waiting for openings, the sounds of bombs filling the air, we headed up the Poma. Took notice of the ski patrol bomb holes on the way out. No significant movement from any of the charges on the steep east face above the catwalk, just some isolated cracking around the blast holes. Looking around at the other black marks in China and Blus Sky and again, no activity.
The last three days I’ve been poking, prodding and stomping around, looking for evidence of instability with the recent winds and then the 11 inches that turned into a foot and a half in EV. We started our day in Tweeners, taking the opportunity to break small burgeoning cornice chunks along the way. As with the previous days, nothing. Some minor shedding of the upper wind affected scarp areas, but theses natural slab breaks were tiny and only ran a few feet.
The skiing in Tweeners was again accompanied by no movement whatsoever. No sluffing and no slab release in the upper concave wind affected face. The lower triangle face held again and we were off into the trees to enjoy some deep freshness. So far so good.
Second run we decided to get back to the Old Man. Old Man’s had sat unskied for a few days. With the ridge top winds, this was going to put our observations to the test. We spent a good fifteen minutes taking turns trundling stove sized cornice chunks down into the scarp area. We made a mess of things in the upper entrance, but completely necessary to see if anything would step down into the rollover faces that ran last week. Again watched the chunks impact and explode, with no results.
Stepped into the right side, J leading the charge and sent it. Watch as his tracks laced the right side again with no movement, sluffing cracking or slab release of any kind. Luke and I followed one at a time, meeting up at a safe area in the right tree stand. We all kind of looked at eachother. Holy shit, a day of deep snow and moderate stability. I couldn’t believe it either. Looking up, we could see that the second rollover face was still not filled in completely from last week and shark fins protruded from the thin snow. No visible naturals anywhere we could see. Spacklefest was on.
The factors?. I don’t claim to know why this was possible, but the dense wet snow, warm temps and little wind helped. The weak layers are still down there in the pack but at least today they were dormant.
Third run Luke and I had EV to ourselves and took out time to enjoy a lenghty skin. We took a slow boat out to our favorite actual East Vail Chute and took time digging a pit and doing some CT tests. We should have a video of the CT results and a brief gratuitous pow video to view soon. Again, the snow was deep and unreactive. Skiing pow without having to dodge bullets every turn was a nice change, if only for a day. We got out of EV finally around 5 pm. We were powder gluttons for sure, and our cup runneth over today. A whole large pizza then sleep.
Woke up, muscles tired and groggy. Looked out the window to see that reset button has been pushed again. Another four inches and dumping at 7 am, with the winds up and no visibility. Not assuming anything about snow today as weather conditions are drastically different. Start at square one with the progression of runs and snow assessment again. Headed out to see what is going on in the ever-changing world of EV Looks like second season is on and the storms are starting to track our way. Let you know.
It’s been a New York state of mind weekend, if you know what I mean. Took the lead from Deuce and started my lap today with a stop at the beacon park to work on multiple burials. That little SP button is a world of its own and finally after a few practice sessions, I feel solid about using it, although a mark function would be useful.
The procession down the groomed section of Poppyfields to 21 from Two Elk was endless. Our fearless guests ski like they drive, work and live in their home towns, all together, right next to each other, up in each other’s business. I made it through the human slalom, up and out and head back for a Mushroom Bowl revisit.
Wanted to dig a pit in Mushie, albeit far away from the Kitchen, to see what was going on. The tally is now four burials past the gate at the Poma this week as told by the new signs up at the hike. A viable option for EV access might be to install a beacon triggered access gate like ones used around in other resorts in the West, just a thought.
The recent avalanche statistics are sobering, not only for East Vail and Mushie, but for the rest of the state as well. as fatalities and incidents are spiking as new storms roll through, dumping new snow on top of facet world. With another system rolling up on us, the avalanche activity doesn’t seem to be coming to and end anytime soon. Interesting week ahead.
Headed even further up the line than yesterday, as I was solo and not willing to even come close to a unskied tree chute over 30 degrees. Greybird and snow starting to fall, I found a cool low angle stumpline to bound around on. Sunk the tips on the last pillow before the small shelf and a did a spectacular ground flip, stopping on my tails. Looked over to my right and saw my huckleberry, a small unskied patch of snow, surrounded by trees.
Here’s what I saw.
Air temp: 3 C
Surface temp: 3 C
Incline: 25 degrees
0 to 65 cms: 3mm loose facets fist – Depth Hoar
75 to 85 cms: 1 mm rounds 4finger/fist- Old Storm Snow
85 to 95 2 mm stellars fist – New Snow
Cut two columns and did two CT tests.
First column: CT-14 at 35 cms Q1
Second column: CT-12 at 25 cms Q1
No real suprise, but confirmation that with added steepness, snow load and the pressure of a 180 pound person impacting this snow pack off a twenty foot cliff (one incident in the Kitchen area went down this way), there is no way the snow could support it.
The real question is why, after one or two incidents in the same area, people still continue to ski in the same exact spot. A question for forensic psychologists, not EVI.
Last day in Mushroom, back out to EV tommorow to check it out.
Saw a two guys I recognized from yesterday at the Pitkin stop again today. Geared up, waiting for the bus and ready for battle in EV. MFD all-time/ Pontoons and his buddy mid-fat Atomics/ Naxos (the worst AT binding of all-time, sent myself to VVMC on those things). Asked them about yesterday, what they saw and such. Just interested in their observations from a big cycle day.
Didn’t think anything of it until I got to the bus stop after my lap. Saw MFD Pontoons standing alone. Said hey and inquired about the whereabouts of mid -fat Atomic. MFD said that his buddy kicked off and lost a ski. He was now alone in the Racquet Club chute. I asked him, matter-of – fact, why he wasn’t he with him? The answer.
MFD said that mid-fat didn’t know where he was exactly in the chute, but MFD had a good idea where he was. He was in touch by cell phone and was going to go around, find him then render aid.(Really?)
MFD said Mid-fat knew from yesterday that his bindings were “loose”, and he should’ve cranked them down, but ignored his advice. (punishment for using Naxos?)
Loaded the bus and sat watching MFD render aid by text.
When it hits the fan, who do you know that you can trust to keep their head and help you? How do you know? Solo missions might get a bad rap, but is it better than having a useless partner? Finding able partners isn’t the easiest thing, and might not be the buddy who is leading you into EV. No easy answer.
Went to check out the West Wall slide from yesterday. My personal powder hunting tempered by the recent events. Hit the ridge on a beautiful sparkling morning, with a couple of inches of fresh again as the snow cycle remnants moved through. Not many people out.
Checked out the track in the skier’s right side of the Wall that was put down by the skier who triggered the slide. He skied the first gully skier’s right in the Wall where you can sneak through through cliff band with minimal/ no air. A small sluff on the line, but that seemed to not relate to the actual avalanche. The actual slide was remotely triggered 75 feet to the skier’s left of the track towards the middle of the bowl. The crown was a foot to two feet deep.
Dug a pit on the 25 degree lead in to the roll over in the middle of the Wall, above the small, butried rock band that lines the top. Representative of the E aspect, but not the incline, as the face below the band rolls into the thirties at least and gets more sun than where I was going to dig. Heres what I saw.
Air temp: 3 C
Surface temp: 3 C
0-60 cms: 3mm facets/ fist –
60-70cms: melt/freeze crust/ pencil
70-80 cms: .5 mm facets(coulmns?) fist –
80-145 cms : .5 mm sintered rounds/ 4 finger
145-160 cms: .5 to 1mm stellars (new snow)/fist –
Thick crust with small, loose facets above the crust, below the dense, sintered old storm snow. Significant temp gradient around the crust.
Did a couple CT tests.
Here’s what I saw.
First column: CT-12 at 65cms Q1. Ran on the facets above the MF crust.
Second column: CT-2 Q2 at 35 cms. This column ended up next to an evergreen shrub. Broke within the depth hoar. Interesting the crust was knife hard around the shrub area.
Filled in my pit and headed out to the bus on a Tele Line ridge run. No obvious new activity.
Another Mushroom burial/injury on 2/16, not sure of all the details. Heard that the Kitchen was the place of the first accident a couple of days ago, not sure the exact location of this one, but Mushie strikes again.
What better a day to grab that powder loving guy or gal and take them out to EV to get the love juices flowing? The overcast to broken skies with S-1 light snowfall and blending from light to calm winds ((L) 1-16 mph) didn’t deter the most discerning of inamorata/inamorato from blazing up the skin track to the top of Benchie and dropping in to profess their passion for the goods with some fine pow turns and periodic wails of pleasure and ecstasy. On the “Danger Rose” (oooh that’s sexy) one could profess that the “dangerous love” was at least considerable on the NW-S facing aspects… Those not blinded by the considerable chance at some likely “rough lovin” could get their moderately risky business done on the W & SW facing slopes. Tracks abound and no shame (recent debaucherous activity) in sight… the powder lovers were painting their affection all over the big white fluffy canvass with big S-Turns abound. Only a few dysfunctional examples of tracks seen hitting the top drops off Old Man’s, traversing skier left over the first cliffs in Old’s then directly over to the northern cliffs two-thirds the way down the open +35 degree avg. aspect, the prominent CDC cliff band. Not sure that relationship is really going to last, but one could conjecture that love makes some behave in some very incredibly peculiar ways.
Linked up with Marty, the legendary wing-man himself, to not only get our powder fix of the day, but to also put a cross hair on our beloved snowpack and shoot it straight in the heart. We sought to identify a deadly problem that has been plaguing some unfortunate riders recently. We’ve all seen the recent reports of the very gruesome reciprocation that the star-crossed snowpack has taken out on members of the BC riding community. The trend of doom has been below treeline in some very precarious terrain traps and that is where some more careful examination is due. From the “hasty” and not so hasty test pits of the season, it’s about lovin time we drop some SWAG on this very problem. Freshly and stalely outfitted with the latest in snow-nerd standards, we figured it’s about time to throw down and get neck deep in the business. What is the problem that we are dealing with? In short, deep persistent weak layers releasing the majority of the top of the snow pack on an interface between the buried depth hoar and the upper “cake” layer of the good stuff. So let the intricate romance with our naughty snowpack begin… (this would be way more bad-ass with snowpilot, but whatever).
2/14/2012 @ 2:30pm on Forgotten Trees with an elev. 10,200-10,400 (estimated from topo).
Small clearing in trees on N-facing Aspect below treeline of 30 degrees.
Sky: Fluctuating from broken to overcast. Wind: Calm to Light. Temp Air: -6.5 deg C. Precip: Very Light (S-1).
Boot Pen: Balls Deep, Yeah, that’s what she said… Type: Profile Pit. Temp Surface @ 150cm: -6.5 deg. C
No Red Flags besides the low-moderate obvious wind loading of leeward aspects.
<150 DF’s (decomp & frag. precip particles) 1.5mm F+ -6.5 deg. C
140 DF’s (decomposing & frag. precip part.) 1.5mm F+ -6.0 deg. C
130 DF’s (decomposing & frag. precip part.) 1.5mm F -6.0 deg. C
120 FCsf (near surface faceted particles) 1-2mm F -5.5 deg. C
110 FCxr (Rounding Faceted Particles) 1.0mm F -5.0 deg. C
100 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 0.5-1.0mm F -4.5 deg. C
90 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 1.0mm <95cm 4F -4.0 deg. C
80 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 1.0mm 4F -3.5 deg. C
70 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 1.0mm 4F -3.0 deg. C
60 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm <60cm F+ -2.5 deg. C
50 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -2.0 deg. C
40 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -2.0 deg. C
30 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -1.5 deg. C
20 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -1.0 deg. C
10 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -1.0 deg. C
Did a very nice ECT (Extended Column Test) 30cm deep X 90cm wide X to 120cm deep from surface, back cut out.
Results yielded: ECT23Q3(PC)… the whole 150cm down to 60cm collapsed on the interface (if you can remember the December surface hoar produced by endless clear days and cold clear nights) ~60-63cm is where the ECT collapsed but did not shear. This indicated a collapse and even propagation, but no sudden planar or resistant planar shear @ 30 deg. So that would put us at ECTP23. Read from that what you will… in leymans’ that’s a deep persistent weak layer that will propagate distances, collapse and cause instability in the snowpack, hence, most aspects on the CAIC Rose being rated as considerable. Watch out for higher angle slopes that will cause the upper layer to collapse as well as shear and slide.
That’s all the snow-geek and SWAGger I got for ya! hopefully you were suave and savvy enough to get your significant other’s adrenaline and love potion pumping with you’re superior shredability out in EV today. If you didn’t here’s some snow porn to help you thru tomorrow… but remember, never trust a hoar, no matter how deep you bury it (Whammy!).
Headed up to see the after effects of a big Saturday. Like heading into a trashed frat house after the cops come, the area was deserted and littered(with tracks, not Old Style beer cans) . Fully expecting to see some slide remnants in the bowls, but the reports of a slide in Benchie were just spray. Forty or so tracks in plain view. Plenty of snow testers exploring all aspects. Maybe a small fracture on skiers’ left side of Benchie, but nothing real significant and hard to tell as the area was laced with tracks on top of the possible remnants.
Greybird day and temperatures finally cooling off with the incoming front. No recent movement in Old Man’s, the right side stamped with tracks and a few poking into the first gully skier’s left of shrubbercross alley.
Took full advantage of the stability and headed left middle gully for the first time all year. One might even call it a, gasp, SKI CUT!!! Just kidding, can’t help myself. The snow was settled and surfy, no movement at all the run. Still some reef in the roll over gullies, but finally getting covered.
Some advice. 5 second rule. If you are going to delve into the middle of any open areas, you need to be able to ski your line all at once, with speed, without stopping on the cliff bands. Otherwise don’t bother. CMHing through these areas will get you pounded.
Headed out to the ridge and saw two small(30 ft wide) slab pockets had ripped on the lower skier’s right side of the West Wall. These were small shallow areas with no propagation or run distance (50 ft), an effect of the recent new snow on the sun baked east facing West Wall giving way.
Found good snow in the Forgotten Trees, shaded north facing, it provided good knee-deep pow skiing. Hit the lower cliff band in the trees and fractured a 20 foot circle of snow. Just collapsed, didn’t run but stopped me dead in my tracks. Time to look around and enjoy the solitude of the moment and the light snow starting to fall in the trees.
Found an undisturbed tree pocket next door to my landing to do a quick CT test and snow profile. 38 degrees, north facing, untouched. Perfect. Again not too much difference in the snow profile from other recent pits. 10 cms of fresh snow of 55 cms of slighlty denser old storm snow. At the bottom the less than fist density 3 mm facets still there to the ground.
105 cms total depth, -3 C air temp, -1C snow surface temp. CT column results were a little different from a couple of days ago.
CT-2 Q1 at 95 cms. Old snow/new snow interface, just the top fluff.
CT-17 Q3 at 35 cms. Again within the 3mm facets, but ragged and uneven.
Only did a single column, so no back up for the results. Just lots and lots of tracks. Lots.
Beacon, probe, shovel, saw, collapsible ruler, Avalung/ABS float pack, First Aid kit, Snow Study Kit, Klean Kanteen (camel hoses freeze), knife, compass, headlamp (you never know…) Sunscreen, chap-stick… This damn pack is like forty pounds now… Extra hat, extra pit gloves, cordelette, big orange Black Diamond ski straps (nicely holds ridiculously fat skis/poles together and make wonderful tourniquets), skis, poles, skins and AT Boots. Whew! Am I missing anything? Oh yeah! Pen, notepad, “The Avalanche Handbook”, “Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain”, “Human Factors in Avalanche Accidents”, “Heuristic Traps in Recreational Avalanche Accidents: Evidence and Implications”, “Snow, Weather, and Avalanches: Observation Guidelines for Avalanche Programs in the US”, the AIARE Field Book and a bunch of Topo’s.
My God, just a few thousand dollars in gear, a couple thousand pages in texts and articles and it’s no wonder that its so easy for armchair avalanche quarterbacks to get outfitted at the local shop, take a couple runs in dangerous terrain and have the hubris to act like an authority or an expert… better yet, an “Institute” (I hope you can understand the sarcastic humor, if not, please just save your brain cells and Google “Backcountry Skiing” on Youtube and enjoy the safety of your parents’ basement shredding virtual pow.
The point I’m going to excruciating lengths to emphasize here is that for a given amount of time, money and reading effort, anyone can get the gear, read some print and get out in the backcountry and slay like a hero. And there are a staggering amount of these “Tom Brady’s of the Backcountry” hitting our favorite zones and stashes. The crucial link that is missing in this already weakened chain is a good dose of education, hence, the backbone of this textual poetic waxing.
I was fortunate enough to be able to forego the Super Bowl weekend in the “Male-Valley” and head down to the legendary town of Silverton, CO. We have all seen the ski-porn, the sick double/triple stager lines on film and the limitless attitude/mindset of the popular culture powder skiing industry that has turned an old historic mining town into the Mecca for extreme powder skiing in the lower 48. It all looks sweet on the silver screen, personally, I love the segments and it admittedly sucks me in every time. But again, the big factor missing here is education. Never once do I see in these segments any kind of emphasis on getting educated/trained and what it really takes to drop such aesthetically pristine lines complements of Red Bull or Warren Miller.
Contrary to popular culture’s awareness, Silverton is also home to the “Nation’s most respected avalanche education since 1962”. If you want to learn from an expert, professional or a professional expert, Silverton Avalanche School is your ticket to priceless knowledge and they are an actual bona fide licensed “School”! I bagged Level 1 there and liked it so much, I came back for more… Level 2.
Getting the Level 1 or 2 cert. is not a license to post up and become an authority. It’s more like the fundamental knowledge of backcountry education. Where tools and info are presented so that the students can start to build a solid foundation of knowledge and a “tool kit” to become educated travelers and observers of the “Off-Piste”. Level 1 and Level 2 are the beginning steps in a lifetime of learning and exploring the backcountry. After one or two of these important steps are accomplished, we should all be able to enjoy and play nicely in the sandbox… and be able to speak the same language.
To be quite honest, the SAS Level 2 is more than the 30 student classroom can handle in four and a half days of drinking from an informational fire hydrant. There is so much info and particular nuances to pay attention to that, it is surprising people don’t leave the San Juan’s dumber than when they came. I certainly was humbled and reflected on all my stupidity and bad decision making prior to my formal Avi education… It makes one realize how very little one knows, or thought one knew! Thank goodness for the instructors’ expert and professional presence of mind to reel in the blind sheep as soon as they lose the forest for the trees or the pasture for the grass, however one can make a synopsis out of it. And then take the students out into the real backcountry environment and reestablish the application of theory to actual backcountry praxis. In a way, it’s an education for both the teacher and the student. The student is able to learn and apply their knowledge and Avi skills, while the instructors observe the human nature of groups in the backcountry. Win-Win, we are always going to be learning, whether we are Mr. Miyagi or little Daniel-san. But once school’s out and we’re on our own, those pros and experts won’t be there to coral us from our idiocy. Hopefully, we have been able to choke down as much info as we can and not lose the big picture.
This trip, like any, was a real eye opener, a quintessential microcosm of the backcountry public. From mountaineering late teenagers to off-piste shredding silver foxes and foxettes and everyone in between, these people are our backcountry community, our family. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters and we owe it to them to make sure that when we are recreating in the backcountry that we posses the skills, tools and knowledge/education to be able to look out for one another and to be able to save each other from our own stupidity/bad decisions or just mother nature being the cruel bitch she can sometimes be. I’ve made some really dumb mistakes, poor decisions and I am probably due for a few more, but being Avi-educated has allowed me to mitigate those human errors and become a better member of the backcountry community.
For those in the audience that want to just say “screw it” and go drop in on our favorite zones take heed. You really owe it to yourself to go and get educated first and foremost. It will make you a better rider and a better human, not to mention a hero if you are put in a situation where you will have to be the one to save a member of your family/community (the respect is also owed to them). The whole purpose of my involvement here is to raise the awareness of the uncontrolled environment such as EV and to help raise the bar and caliber of the typical shred-head that slays it out there. We are not egos yelling from across the valley that “you’re a gaper” and you should “turn your beacon on because we say so”… we are a part of the community that care about the well being of anyone who loves to ride where we do. We are more than willing to share our stories and experiences and hopefully add a little humor to the mix to keep it fresh.
If you want to know, ask questions. If you need the education, check out Silverton Avalanche School, Friends of Berthoud Pass or your local community colleges, amongst many local guide/education services. There are awareness classes, Level 1 and 2 certs abound. There are awesome people at these organizations and future friends and riding partners. It’s an obvious win-win. You won’t leave any of these places an expert in Avy-savviness, but you will leave with the tools and skills to get out there and be safe when you are traveling and riding avalanche terrain. But lastly, if you haven’t noticed, this is the most notoriously dangerous Colorado snow pack in recent history. If you haven’t taken advantage of the opportunities to go get some education, this is a better time than any. This snow pack laboratory is probably the best you could learn from. It opened my eyes wide and taught me many important lessons. Don’t really need to be preaching to the choir, but the choir does need to learn a few new songs now and again…
Some Pictures for your view pleasure and see you out there!
Chance of snow. Finally. No hundred percent chance of sixteen inches that leaves us like a jilted bride at the altar. Chance, that’s all we ask here in the Vail valley. My favorite forecast.
Currently snowing here, and Thursday/ Friday provided the best EV skiing of the year, but with different stability indications. Yesterday, stomping the edge of the yet to be formed cornice of Old Man’s with skis sent the 60-80cm of wind load to the egde of the frying pan with an easy shear, but did not propagate or step down in the rollover gulley past the first flats. (This measurement is rough and only is at the very top of the run at the start of the rollover where the cornice usually forms.)
Friday, at the same place, with renewed wind load even deeper, around 80 cm, the same test produced no shear and moderate cracking that didn’t fully break. Soft slab blocks stood perched on edge, but refused to drop and run.
Skiing was excellent both days, the snow on Friday was thicker and sprayed like spoonfuls of mashed potatoes on each turn as we got into the midddle of the bowl. The snow stayed knee-deep and fresh all the way through. Watched a group of four ski left Benchie with no results. The tracks in West Wall, Tele Line, Benchie produces no slides that I could see. Didn’t have much movement on my run and only minor sluffing running the right middle concave gully. The following four tracks had only minor surface pockets moving a very short distance. The upper part of the pack seems to be stronger than it was a week ago, Definitely interesting to see the change in 24 hours with the same rudimentary test in the same place.
Super big Saturday with the Teva games in town and the mountaineering race ends up at Benchie. Will racers and EV skiers be battling for the same skin track? Much pressure this weekend and hope the seeming increasing stability is for real.
Also, check out this TGR blog if you haven’t already.
Took advantage of the perfect weather to do a midnight skin up meadow mountain under the full moon on Tuesday with Luke and Paulie and dog. First group gathering gearing up for the AK world as it is now a countdown in days towards the end of the season. Surreal snow world cast in a ghostly bone white light, the trees and skin trail glowed brightly under the moon. We worked our way upward through the meadows and aspens while snow machines rallied around us, transferring partygoers from the trailhead to the cabin for a full moon party.
After a couple of hours we arrived at the cabin, drawn into the cabin by firelight and laughter. We arrived and were greeted warmly by the Mushroom people, speaking in tongues and smiling, They welcomed us to their fire with clicks and whistles and we obliged them. The light from Minturn and Vail were visible and the Gore range rose up in authority, bathed in blacklight.
The ski down was low angle and variable, pockets of stale powder, interrupted by frozen track chatter. Dog decided that snow machines were more fun and took off on us. Luke got a second lap around midnight back to the top by snow machine and a bonus ski down with the wayward mutt.
Headed out to EV on Wednesday afternoon in rising westerly wind and lowering, thickening grey clouds. Haven’t been back in some days, so again interested in what has transpired since last week. Hit the poma and was warned by an older guy passing by on the catwalk about the danger in the West Vail Chutes.
Top of the world and I saw tracks beaten in the usual places. Much of Benchmark is unrecognizable from last year and unskiable due to low snow, so the skier’s left side is hammered. Right side of West Wall, Tweeners and Tele Line all had tracks. No recent slide activity that I could see.
First time able to ski left past the initial cliff band and into the right center of Old Man’s. The upper scarp is still rock hard, Supportive dense wind buffed pow skied o.k and the roll over areas through the two cliff/reef areas held fast. About a dozen tracks littered the skier’s right side middle of the bowl, while the CDC area remains unskied. The bottom of Old’s had covered mounds of old debris.
First time cutting over to the MVP area from Old Man’s, wanting to see how the Forgotten Trees were skiing. Upper turns in the trees were more stale cake but fresh, as most of the other tracks headed straight. Came upon the first cliff band and side-stepped off a three-foot ledge onto a briefly steep(40 degree) open tree pocket after the rocks. Sunk to the ground and fractured a small area under the rocks that disintegrated like sand.
Took the opportunity of standing on terra firma and looking at a small but distinct fracture line to take a look at the snow. Not much change 2-3 m facets less than fist density, topped by slightly denser old and new storm snow. Any column cut still can’t stand on its own and fractures Q3 within the facets. No real surprise in stability. Still around 110 cms.
Ended up skiing 30 ft wide refilled bed surface pockets in the trees to get to the exit. Traversed out onto thin and crusty east face and onto the track out to the bus. Thin fast and littered with stumps and bushes, it is not fun. Biggest March ever.