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  1. #101
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    What a fucking nightmare. So many beacon signals. Digging up, to your surprise, someone from another party. Uggg.

  2. #102
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    Sobering read, but very well done. I think this is one of those reports that is really valuable in helping others learn and hopefully avoid their own accidents. I am struck that you can do so many things right and still have tragic results. The picture of their ski tracks prior to the slide makes the slope look relatively benign and I can see why they picked that route. Tragic reminder of how a relatively mellow (31 degree), relatively short (400 vert) can produce a deadly slide. Also interesting to read how they put 14 sets of tracks on the slope before it slid. Makes me think about how often we ski, come back safely and congratulate ourselves for making good choices when the slope might have ripped on the next lap and we just got lucky.

  3. #103
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccwaskier View Post
    Sobering read, but very well done.
    Makes me think about how often we ski, come back safely and congratulate ourselves for making good choices when the slope might have ripped on the next lap and we just got lucky.
    ^^ good point and great read. incredible recovery efforts from everyone. just so shitty. thoughts and prayers to the survivors as well the families and friends of those who passed.

  4. #104
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldenboy View Post
    One of many, many reasons you'll only find me on Vipecs and Tectons; that releasable toe is an important feature for me.

    Sad report, vibes to all the friends and families. Some reports are easier than others to put myself in the victim's shoes- this one is far easier than most.
    F agreed on the releaseable toe. I put Shar on Tectons and Vipecs for that reason. Also I can use Salomon MTN and Marker Alpinists without toe locked out on the ascent and they will release on a slide. Also no pole straps on the uphill for me. NOT MMQB but just something actionable that your comments made me think about.

  5. #105
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    Click image for larger version. 

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    Xposting from the wasatch thread. I had asked if the "standard" skinner was the blue line I drew in (not the party's red line), and yes, that is the safest way to go up fwiw.

    Definitely making me think about following a skintrack to an objective that someone else set. If it doesn't feel right, set your own.

    I'm guilty of following a skinner right up that random chute in green's (above the meadow) about a month ago when the only snow there was a complete sandbox. Had second thoughts on why my party was doing it (as did others in the party), but no one spoke up. No issues on that day, but wanted to use that specific mistake that my party made and learn from it.

  6. #106
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    Millcreek Canyon UT - 4 fatalities

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeLau View Post
    F agreed on the releaseable toe. I put Shar on Tectons and Vipecs for that reason. Also I can use Salomon MTN and Marker Alpinists without toe locked out on the ascent and they will release on a slide. Also no pole straps on the uphill for me. NOT MMQB but just something actionable that your comments made me think about.
    yeah this certainly has me second guessing my toe locking tendencies also

    eta: I have cut off all my pole straps for years also

  7. #107
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    The standard skinner seems obvious when someone shows it to you you but is perhaps not so clear standing at the bottom if it's an unfamiliar slope.

    When you ski it you get funneled to skier's right naturally, and you're in this happy safe feeling old growth forest when you stop to transition. Flat as a pancake.

    The steepest part of the slope is actually adjacent to the aspen grove where the standard skinner goes, and you can't really see that the trees past that are mellower. Not a super obvious choice to go over there. Turning around and going back the way you came isn't an insane decision, and I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing if I was unfamiliar with the slope.

    You can kind of see what I mean in these photos:

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    I'm personally grappling with the double edged sword of familiarity on this one. If you ski somewhere all the time you know the safe skin tracks and safe descent routes for dicey times, but then, are those safe routes really safe? Just because you've never seen them slide, does that mean they can't slide, or that you've just never seen them in the conditions when they slide? Did they make these choices because they are familiar with this run, or because they aren't familiar and underestimated it? After all, one could probably ski infrequently for years in Wilson Glade without encountering a slide, and a lifetime without encountering a slide like this in there.

    Also thinking that there's not a whole lot to analyze on this one at the end of the day. Analyzing micro-terrain features for route finding belies the point with this kind of snowpack. The only real takeaway I have personally is that I'm even more fucking terrified of depth hoar and persistent slab problems than I already was, and that the only real way to win is to stay the fuck away. I'm definitely re-thinking the times I've patted myself on the back for "safely" navigating the shitty almost-always-rotten snowpack over on the Mill Creek ridge line.

  8. #108
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    Quote Originally Posted by peace_coast View Post
    The standard skinner seems obvious when someone shows it to you you but is perhaps not so clear standing at the bottom if it's an unfamiliar slope.

    When you ski it you get funneled to skier's right naturally, and you're in this happy safe feeling old growth forest when you stop to transition. Flat as a pancake.

    The steepest part of the slope is actually adjacent to the aspen grove where the standard skinner goes, and you can't really see that the trees past that are mellower. Not a super obvious choice to go over there. Turning around and going back the way you came isn't an insane decision, and I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing if I was unfamiliar with the slope.

    You can kind of see what I mean in these photos:

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    I'm personally grappling with the double edged sword of familiarity on this one. If you ski somewhere all the time you know the safe skin tracks and safe descent routes for dicey times, but then, are those safe routes really safe? Just because you've never seen them slide, does that mean they can't slide, or that you've just never seen them in the conditions when they slide? Did they make these choices because they are familiar with this run, or because they aren't familiar and underestimated it? After all, one could probably ski infrequently for years in Wilson Glade without encountering a slide, and a lifetime without encountering a slide like this in there.

    Also thinking that there's not a whole lot to analyze on this one at the end of the day. Analyzing micro-terrain features for route finding belies the point with this kind of snowpack. The only real takeaway I have personally is that I'm even more fucking terrified of depth hoar and persistent slab problems than I already was, and that the only real way to win is to stay the fuck away. I'm definitely re-thinking the times I've patted myself on the back for "safely" navigating the shitty almost-always-rotten snowpack over on the Mill Creek ridge line.
    Thx for your thoughts. Hard to know for a zone I've never set foot in so appreciate your detail.

    Yea, my biggest takeaway is avoidance and terrain selection, but wanted to attempt to learn and make my micro decisions better too.

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  9. #109
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    Quote Originally Posted by mall walker View Post
    yeah this certainly has me second guessing my toe locking tendencies also

    eta: I have cut off all my pole straps for years also
    I started not locking mine today. Sure I'll lock them up when snow gets hard but they rarely fall off in soft snow. Broke trail all day today and they never came off although it wasn't super deep tough trail breaking. Still have to lock them breaking trail in the flats since you can't torque the ice off the heel without knocking them off.
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  10. #110
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    a friend of mine who is in the industry sent me a pic of his spiral tibia fracture. forgot to unlock prior to decent. he did impress that it is best to lock then unlock so boot and binding achieve the optimal alignment. it just has to become part of your transition protocol.

  11. #111
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    Quote Originally Posted by peace_coast View Post
    The standard skinner seems obvious when someone shows it to you you but is perhaps not so clear standing at the bottom if it's an unfamiliar slope.

    When you ski it you get funneled to skier's right naturally, and you're in this happy safe feeling old growth forest when you stop to transition. Flat as a pancake.

    The steepest part of the slope is actually adjacent to the aspen grove where the standard skinner goes, and you can't really see that the trees past that are mellower. Not a super obvious choice to go over there. Turning around and going back the way you came isn't an insane decision, and I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing if I was unfamiliar with the slope.

    You can kind of see what I mean in these photos:

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    I'm personally grappling with the double edged sword of familiarity on this one. If you ski somewhere all the time you know the safe skin tracks and safe descent routes for dicey times, but then, are those safe routes really safe? Just because you've never seen them slide, does that mean they can't slide, or that you've just never seen them in the conditions when they slide? Did they make these choices because they are familiar with this run, or because they aren't familiar and underestimated it? After all, one could probably ski infrequently for years in Wilson Glade without encountering a slide, and a lifetime without encountering a slide like this in there.

    Also thinking that there's not a whole lot to analyze on this one at the end of the day. Analyzing micro-terrain features for route finding belies the point with this kind of snowpack. The only real takeaway I have personally is that I'm even more fucking terrified of depth hoar and persistent slab problems than I already was, and that the only real way to win is to stay the fuck away. I'm definitely re-thinking the times I've patted myself on the back for "safely" navigating the shitty almost-always-rotten snowpack over on the Mill Creek ridge line.
    I have to say that the second pic with slope angles looks pretty benign from that perspective

  12. #112
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    Quote Originally Posted by whipski View Post
    I have to say that the second pic with slope angles looks pretty benign from that perspective
    Yeah. That's what's nuts. All of the nuts.

  13. #113
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    I just want to reiterate how incredibly detailed and thorough UAC's report on this incident is. Very impactful. It's hard to read that and not see yourself in the same situation. I've made the same kind of choices many, many times in the backcountry. I hope other Avalanche centers around the country learn from this report. This is the kind of write up that people need to read to begin to really understand.

    What a heartbreaking event. Rest in peace.

  14. #114
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    Quote Originally Posted by peace_coast View Post
    You can kind of see what I mean in these photos:

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    Fuck. All this time I had no idea how close this was to the slide timing wise. I only just now saw that this was when they were waiting next to the tree before crossing 1 at a time.
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  15. #115
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    Quote Originally Posted by whipski View Post
    I have to say that the second pic with slope angles looks pretty benign from that perspective
    Itís prime avalanche terrain. Even more so with a pwl. Iíve definitely put myself in stupid places, but everything was screaming at them not to ski that slope, skinning up it is even worse. Forecast, objective hazards, time of exposure etc.

    Itís a head scratcher.


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  16. #116
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    Millcreek Canyon UT - 4 fatalities

    A few thoughts that the report spurs:

    1) High danger, forecast pointing out NE aspects. THIS IMO is the core of the mistake. None of it goes down without choosing to tour on and under avalanche terrain at this level if danger.

    2) frightening that they skied and skinned this multiple times with no trouble before the slide. 14 tracks (?) and numerous up the skintrack meant nothing.

    3) terrain. Yeah only 31 at the apparent trigger but still, avalanche terrain was not avoided.

    4) what a nightmare of an aftermath. Finding strangers, multiple dead. Having to move on from your SO now deceased. Dont want


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    Last edited by Kinnikinnick; 02-14-2021 at 07:21 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Benny Profane View Post
    Keystone is fucking lame. But, deadly.

  17. #117
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    frightening that they skied and skinned this multiple times with no trouble before the slide. 14 tracks (?) and numerous up the skintrack meant nothing.
    Its possible that the addition of another group overloaded the slab. Its also possible that the extra people enabled one of them to get unlucky and access a trigger location. Its also possible that it was just bad luck.

    Lots of people love to say that it is possible to safely tour in periods of high or considerable hazard. I believe that to be true as well.

    At the same time lots of people will say that it is unwise to attempt to ski avalanche terrain in periods of high and considerable hazard.

    I think it is very possible that both groups confused one with the other and in that terrain it would be an easy mistake given that most people think nothing of skiing much steeper terrain during periods of Moderate hazard.

    Excellent report and gut wrenching to read.
    I have been in this State for 30 years and I am willing to admit that I am part of the problem.

  18. #118
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    Uac is an incredible local avy center ........you folks are really lucky to have them. That report is among the best and most sobering and informative I’ve ever seen

  19. #119
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunion 2020 View Post
    Its possible that the addition of another group overloaded the slab. Its also possible that the extra people enabled one of them to get unlucky and access a trigger location.
    No expert so I'm just spitballing, but I'd guess the one-finger hard slab layer created a bridge strong enough to allow the descents on the areas in the low 30 degrees. The uptrack cut across steeper slopes, directly below a substantially steeper zone. The descents may have weakened/fractured/depressed the slab in the open area, and multiple ascents across the steeper area just below the trees at the top were basically uphill ski cutting, eventually fracturing and/or pushing down the hard layer, which damaged the slab/bridge integrity and removed support from below the steep zone above, triggering the terminal fracture in the 37-40 degree overhead trees. That same hard slab that initially provided strength to the snowpack instantly became a liability once it started moving, increasing propagation across the entire slope (even across lower-angle areas that might not have otherwise slid).

    Just the facet layer would have been bad enough, but facets alone would have been more predictable. The slab made it harder to trigger the slope, but it also greatly increased the potential energy to be released.

    My sincere condolences to everyone affected.
    Last edited by 1000-oaks; 02-13-2021 at 05:52 PM.

  20. #120
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    Thoughts on group size? I have to wonder if a group of five impacted the decision making process for the party that set the skin track. In my experience no one is immune to the groupthink and herd mentality. Having experienced bad group dynamic failures in the past, and reading how aware they were of avalanche terrain and the snowpack, it's totally conceivable to me that all five were skinning up the gut and thinking to themselves "I'm not sure why we aren't skinning up the ridge..."

    All of the really shitty decisions I've made touring (and been acutely aware of in hindsight, at least) have been with a group of 4+. Things always start to get weird with 4 people if it's not a tight knit and perfectly matched group in terms of skill, athleticism, and risk tolerance, and with 5+, decision making seems to totally fall apart regardless. A lot of the really gut-wrenching avalanche accidents with experienced parties making a series of bad decisions in sketchy snowpacks seem to involve groups of 4+ too. (side note - ironic to me that the guy sitting the lap out is probably the only thing that kept this from being worse. someone sitting out a lap is a hard no for me and usually an indication that the group is already falling apart and we need to go home).

    A discussion on group size is standard in avalanche education, but group size considerations seem to get tossed out by a lot of experienced parties. I think a lot of us tend to think that we are aware enough of group dynamic issues to actively manage them, but it takes an extraordinary amount of discipline and I think avoiding larger groups altogether is just safer and leads to better outcomes.

    I sometimes wonder if we should be placing more emphasis on group size and managing group dynamics rather than on the snow science. All the pit profiles and snowpack knowledge in the world don't mean a thing if you can't say no when the other four people in your party want to cross a suspect slope.

  21. #121
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    ^ regarding group size, an old guy way back when told me once: ďthe best group size is 3. everyone gets a say, and you have a good chance of someone making the conservative call. the next best size is 1, because you have nobody to impress, and youíre a little bit scared. the next best size is 2, though with very regular partners you have to watch out more for heuristic traps / familiarity issues. those are the only group sizes you should ever tour inĒ

  22. #122
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    Quote Originally Posted by mall walker View Post
    ^ regarding group size, an old guy way back when told me once: ďthe best group size is 3. everyone gets a say, and you have a good chance of someone making the conservative call. the next best size is 1, because you have nobody to impress, and youíre a little bit scared. the next best size is 2, though with very regular partners you have to watch out more for heuristic traps / familiarity issues. those are the only group sizes you should ever tour inĒ
    Canít say I disagree.


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  23. #123
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunion 2020 View Post

    Lots of people love to say that it is possible to safely tour in periods of high or considerable hazard. I believe that to be true as well.

    At the same time lots of people will say that it is unwise to attempt to ski avalanche terrain in periods of high and considerable hazard.

    I think it is very possible that both groups confused one with the other and in that terrain it would be an easy mistake given that most people think nothing of skiing much steeper terrain during periods of Moderate hazard.

    Excellent report and gut wrenching to read.
    Good tool to use for combination high hazard and terrain.
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    I would probably rate that location 4 or 5 out of 7. Recent avalanches +1, wind loading +1, terrain traps (trees) +1, considerable rating +1, and avy path (based on history) +1. The tool would tell you to stay off avy paths, terrain traps, wind loading, and aspects rated considerable.
    the Shepherd's Prayer (Alan Shepherd)

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  24. #124
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    Aug 2014
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    Problems this year:
    Shitty snowpack.
    More folks than ever wanting to be in the backcountry.
    Relatively new experts in the mix.
    That haven't and prolly won't get mentored.
    Need to work on the mentorship part, yes?

    On a different note, one must speak forcefully if one feels that safety is at stake.
    Even if you cannot exactly place where the alarm bells are coming from.
    You are morally obligated though you wonder if you're being a pussy.
    Time spent skiing cannot be deducted from one's life.

  25. #125
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    Aug 2013
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    Just fucking awful to read but Iím very grateful for the report.

    Iím sorry for everyone affected.

    1/3 on the way up! Going to have to stop locking my toes uphill without considering the possible consequences. Lots of other things to think about as well but that is the one that was the biggest surprise.

    Thanks to all in the thread as well for the thoughtful discussion.

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