Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah. A skier-triggered avalanche occurred last weekend on the Coalpit Headwall (not pictured) in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Maurice King Flickr Photo.
Avalanche danger still lurks on inconspicuous low forecast days, as an incident in Little Cottonwood Canyon last weekend demonstrates. On Friday, February 21st, a trio of skiers were skiing the Coalpit Headwall, a popular Wasatch backcountry line, when a member of their party triggered an avalanche. After skiing out of sight from their backcountry partners, the first skier of the trio triggered a 35-foot wide soft slab, which sent them downwards 150 feet. The victim was able to self-arrest, but the slide continued on for an additional 460 feet. Luckily, the skier wasn’t buried and was able to ski away despite a broken ski.
According to the victim’s testimonial on the Utah Avalanche Center, they regret becoming separated from their group. During the avalanche, the victim’s partners had no eyes on the situation and were unable to respond. The skier writes, “If I had been buried they would have had no idea and by the time they figured it out it likely would have been too late.” Additionally, the victim had no means of warning the other skiers of the situation prior to them dropping into the line.
The incident is a chilling reminder to always practice proper safety precautions when traveling in the backcountry. A low avalanche danger doesn’t equate to no avalanche danger. Still take the time to evaluate snow and terrain when approaching consequential objectives, and travel with a partner. For more information on avalanche safety, check out TGR's Safety Week Series.
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