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  1. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alpinord View Post
    If any good can come out of this tragedy is increased respect and awareness of ‘un-cool’ elevations and terrain.

    I shot this image shortly after the death of cool dude in Sam’s Trees (Amil?? was his name, slide upper, mid-right). Looking at Sam’s on it’s own looks not unlike foothills or lower level terrain. A reminder that even benign looking terrain and conditions on a bluebird day requires potential situational awareness and respect.

    https://classic.avalanche.state.co.u...=649&accfm=inv

    Attachment 449572

    A buddy also had a wild, lucky ride and partially burial (IIRC) in Sam’s where it ‘broke into refrigerator size blocks’.

    Sent from my iPad using TGR Forums
    Abel was his name. He was a very close friend and a real cool dude. I miss him dearly and haven't looked at terrain like Sam's the same since. I actually skied the area where this recent accident occurred with him in January 2017.

    I also had my closest call with an avalanche in Sams in 2013 when I had a 3' deep avalanche break under my feet in that zone. Scared the shit out of me and into my first avalanche course later that winter. I don't want to derail this thread from the recent accident anymore so I'll leave it at that, but there are some good lessons to take away from these tragedies.

  2. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alpinord View Post
    To a reasonable extent, the only real difference between mid-elevation terrain and places like Sam’s, The Backyard, Deer Creek, Commodore, Hudson Mine, Minnehaha, etc, etc is the actual elevation. A weak layer is a weak layer, 38 deg is 38 deg (both slope & temp), 4’ of wind slab is 4’ of wind slab, considerable risk is considerable risk…..
    Considerable is considerable, but lower elevations usually have lower risk. That's why we usually see them with a lower hazard rating. There is usually less wind. There is usually more freeze/thaw to stabilize things. There is usually less snow. Less or no history of avalanches on the slope. All of these things contribute to us feeling they are more safe (and generally, they are).
    But when they are filled in and hitting things can change. They can experience more rapid warming. They don't have recognizable slide paths to guide us. Inversions can keep them cold when higher elevations are experiencing a freeze/thaw cycle. And while lower elevation equals lower winds all other things being equal, other things are rarely equal, like here.
    powdork.com - new and improved, with 20% more dork.

  3. #28
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    San Juan double fatality

    Quote Originally Posted by powdork View Post
    Considerable is considerable, but lower elevations usually have lower risk. That's why we usually see them with a lower hazard rating. There is usually less wind. There is usually more freeze/thaw to stabilize things. There is usually less snow. Less or no history of avalanches on the slope. All of these things contribute to us feeling they are more safe (and generally, they are).
    But when they are filled in and hitting things can change. They can experience more rapid warming. They don't have recognizable slide paths to guide us. Inversions can keep them cold when higher elevations are experiencing a freeze/thaw cycle. And while lower elevation equals lower winds all other things being equal, other things are rarely equal, like here.
    Another take away, is burn areas are different than treed areas. I look at them more as ‘above timberline’ vs ‘below timberline’ relative to the zone ratings. This year is definitely unusual (for the 2000's and more like the 80's & 90's) in that a lot of terrain typically unskiable due to lack of coverage, has been an option for an extended time frame. More snow (2’) and potentially wind is coming this week too with lower temps again.

    For the last few winters our mid-zone ‘micro-climate’ can sometimes get as much snow as Wolf Creek or more often, the same as Purgatory, and more than Telluride, especially during more southern storms. The Wilsons (‘Storm Maker’ per the Utes) can act as a wedge diverting the storm before the San Juans, depending on storm track. The La Platas are also very capable of collecting snow, including the western side where the snowmobile rescue occurred. Good on them for saving their buddy.

    Sorry for opening a wound ASF, he sounded like he was an awesome friend.


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    Last edited by Alpinord; 02-28-2023 at 09:13 AM.
    Best regards, Terry
    (Direct Contact is best vs PMs)

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  4. #29
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    Vibes
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  5. #30
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    I'm surprised by the comments regarding lower elevation snowpacks. With CO's continental snowpack, I'd strongly disagree that lower elevations are safer. In fact, I generally consider them much less safe. If I go to higher elevations right now, I go to more of an intermountain snowpack- the basal layers are far too deep for a person to trigger. PWL's have been off the problem list for weeks now- in our snowier high elevation areas. But go downvalley? Now you've got a 2' slab sitting on 2' of facets. You're right back to CO crap snowpack.

    Generally, a deeper snowpack is a safer one. Lower elevation means less snow and a higher temperature gradient, both because of colder inversion temps and the smaller snowpack.

  6. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldenboy View Post
    I'm surprised by the comments regarding lower elevation snowpacks. With CO's continental snowpack, I'd strongly disagree that lower elevations are safer. In fact, I generally consider them much less safe. If I go to higher elevations right now, I go to more of an intermountain snowpack- the basal layers are far too deep for a person to trigger. PWL's have been off the problem list for weeks now- in our snowier high elevation areas. But go downvalley? Now you've got a 2' slab sitting on 2' of facets. You're right back to CO crap snowpack.

    Generally, a deeper snowpack is a safer one. Lower elevation means less snow and a higher temperature gradient, both because of colder inversion temps and the smaller snowpack.
    I don't think anyone is arguing that thinner snowpacks are safer than deeper ones but generalizing based on elevation I don't think is all that accurate. The way that high elevations behave in your CB deep zone vs the Front Range vs the San Juans vs the Sawatch are totally different. I think you're right that in CB your higher elevations are typically safer than your low near-town elevations... but only if you go west. Would you consider the high elevations in the shallower snowpack zones east of town to be safer than the low elevations near town?

    I think some of the areas people are talking about here are areas that don't hold consistent snow for sliding activities every year - hence people tend to not think about them as avalanche terrain. Or when they do have snow it tends to be transient - maybe bare ground, then one storm where it's skiable, then no snow again. Never enough time to actually form layers. This year is different and very low elevations have uncommonly distinct snowpack layering.

    You also can't discount the effects of wind typically creating more complex layering structures at higher elevations...

  7. #32
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    Best regards, Terry
    (Direct Contact is best vs PMs)

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  8. #33
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    Shared that article with my crew. Always nice to hear a rescue went right. You only get one shot make it count

  9. #34
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    Points taken Adrenelated. Still, I think deeper snowpacks are generally safer, all things considered. And they're usually deeper at higher elevations. The last time there was enough snow to ski downvalley a few years ago, there was a big slide that took out the skintrack on W mountain (the mountain with a big W on it in Gunnison). Seems typical to me.

    You're right though, if I had to choose between skiing something low elevation in the Taylor/Spring creek drainage (like some people are now doing this year), vs a high peak in Taylor park on the East side of my zone (with much less snow than the areas West of CB), maybe I would choose the low elevation option. It depends on wind up high in that snowpack.

    Anyway, changing subjects, great job Colin, on the rescue. I don't know him well, but he gets after it and some of you have probably seen him on Nate Hills' "follow cam fridays".

  10. #35
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    This is a really interesting discussion going on in regards to lower elevation avalanche terrain. I have definitely fallen into the heuristic trap Adrenalated is describing in big winters before.

    The last time I skied W mountain (2014 I believe) we skied it in the dark and totally didn't think of it as avalanche terrain. The reality is that it was a multi-storm event when we skied it, the snow was definitely faceted, and definitely could have had consequences. Good food for thought.

  11. #36
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    Dec 2012
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    Western Canada
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    Terrain, terrain, terrain is the mantra this year (as it should be). You have to find the “high and wide” ground at all elevations in avalanche country and even then you could be attempting to “thread the needle”, as it’s been called.

    This idea takes out all types of snow enthusiast.

    Some avalanches are survivable, but some are not. Regardless of what elevation they occur. And no amount of “safety” gear will change that. There is a tendency to look for technological solutions to behavioural problems.

    It’s years like this that show how our approach to risk pays off when the stakes are high.
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  12. #37
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    Another factor of low elevations is they are always below treeline, and as such get the lower hazard rating that usually comes with it, even though noone ever reports from these elevations. Perhaps there is room in the advisores for actual elevations rather than just above, near, and below treeline?
    This year we have tons of people skiing out their doors in Carson City, Reno, Minden, etc. Much of this would definitely be considered avalanche terrain, but SAC still just goes to the same places to dig pits it does every year.
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  13. #38
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    Local snowmachiner talking about la manga avalanche. Response and snowmachiner education.
    https://fb.watch/j0Tj4o2Y6S/

  14. #39
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    I don't know Colin but he rolls in some of the same circles as I do. What a great fucking job on the rescue.

  15. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by powdork View Post
    Another factor of low elevations is they are always below treeline, and as such get the lower hazard rating that usually comes with it, even though noone ever reports from these elevations.
    This is what I was thinking. It's quite natural for people to think "lower elevation means less risk" when most avy forecasts they read have "below treeline" as a lower danger rating. That rating won't necessarily tell you the risk with terrain that's not usually "in".
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  16. #41
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    San Juan double fatality

    The final report is posted: https://classic.avalanche.state.co.u...=831&accfm=inv

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    “There were no witnesses to the avalanche, so everything we know about the event comes from looking at the skier’s tracks and equipment. At the site, we found ski tracks consistent with ascending but not descending. Both skiers had climbing skins on their skis when the avalanche caught them. They both carried avalanche transceivers, shovels, and probe poles. They both wore avalanche airbag packs. The trigger on each pack was still zipped inside the shoulder strap and neither had deployed their airbag. The skiers were buried together below the steepest portion of the slope.”

    It sounds like they would have had no chance to react. I couldn’t imagine that moment when the release occurred and the aftermath. RIP.

    We had a somber skate ski at Vallecito today after passing the site on a bluebird day. The cornices were prevalent and the slopes all looked very inviting and seemingly benign, but also looked very much like above tree line skiing.

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    Edit: from this morning’s roof shoveling, the lowest layer seems consistent with the site snow pit data:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Alpinord; 03-06-2023 at 10:26 AM.
    Best regards, Terry
    (Direct Contact is best vs PMs)

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  17. #42
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    Oct 2011
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    Condoloences to friends and family. A tragic and unexpected loss.

    For the sake of discussion, I don't think the high vs low terrain stability applies in a continental snowpack, my feeling it is just too variable/thin. Any slope steep enough to 'lanche is steep enough to kill, and this includes treed slopes or slopes close to civilization that don't always fill in every year. This is a dangerous game and you can't take anything for granted when it comes to terrain.

  18. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldenboy View Post
    I'm surprised by the comments regarding lower elevation snowpacks. With CO's continental snowpack, I'd strongly disagree that lower elevations are safer. In fact, I generally consider them much less safe. If I go to higher elevations right now, I go to more of an intermountain snowpack- the basal layers are far too deep for a person to trigger. PWL's have been off the problem list for weeks now- in our snowier high elevation areas. But go downvalley? Now you've got a 2' slab sitting on 2' of facets. You're right back to CO crap snowpack.

    Generally, a deeper snowpack is a safer one. Lower elevation means less snow and a higher temperature gradient, both because of colder inversion temps and the smaller snowpack.
    Kind of apples to oranges. Powdork is used to the Tahoe Sierra snowpack and you are coming from an area that often (most of the time) has a very thin, continental snowpack. You are both right but from two completely different perspectives.
    dirtbag, not a dentist

  19. #44
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    It looks like there was safe skiing on either side of the steeper bowl that they skied into.

    Avalanches don't care about what we are used to or are expecting.
    dirtbag, not a dentist

  20. #45
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    My take away was terrain terrain terrain. Which is kind of a truism.
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  21. #46
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    CAIC has released the final report on the La Manga Pass avalanche fatality -- didn't see it posted elsewhere:

    https://classic.avalanche.state.co.u...=832&accfm=inv

  22. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by andy m View Post
    CAIC has released the final report on the La Manga Pass avalanche fatality -- didn't see it posted elsewhere:

    https://classic.avalanche.state.co.u...=832&accfm=inv
    Damn, the dude without gear was warned and still headed straight into the most dangerous spot. Well, you can lead a horse.......
    dirtbag, not a dentist

  23. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by raisingarizona13 View Post
    Damn, the dude without gear was warned and still headed straight into the most dangerous spot. Well, you can lead a horse.......
    That's not correct. Re-read the report. Rider 3 felt a collapse and saw cracking and shared those observations with Rider 4. Those observations were not shared with the rest of the group, including Rider 1 (the victim).

    There are a lot of serious errors here, but I think the takeaway should be how do we reach these mechanized communities that are clearly far behind the ski/snowboard world when it comes to basic avalanche awareness and protocols? This was a group of people that were apparently deeply involved in the local community and spent plenty of time recreating in the winter backcountry, yet only some of them had basic safety gear and none were even aware of the forecast. Clearly we're missing something here.

  24. #49
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    Lots of thread drift here. Spoke with friend from PS who has skiied for years with the victims. They are confounded by the incident and route which was taken. They were considered exceptionally cautious, well trained and solid ski partners. She is heart broken at the loss.

  25. #50
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    A friend with SAR mentioned that one of the recovery team said it was inconclusive as to whether or not they were in transition because one of the victim’s skins were not on his skis.


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    (Direct Contact is best vs PMs)

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