1/26/2012

Avalanche Danger - Extreme

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The excitement of all the new snow in the Western half of the U.S. has caused a lot of people to flock to the mountains for their first pow turns of the season. However, it is without understatement that I say that the current snow pack with the addition of the new snow is extremely dangerous. In the last week there have been three deaths in Colorado due to avalanches, and many more people injured.

One avalanche death included one of two brothers who were snowmobiling through Buff Pass in Steamboat. Another death included a 13-year-old boy who triggered an in-bounds avalanche at Vail after ducking a rope. It happened the day I rode there with Dania, in the same area we were riding, when we were riding. It's pretty scary to think about. The trail is called Prima Cornice, which is a double-black diamond run that was closed because of the avalanche danger. Wanting to get some fresh pow lines, him and his friend decided to duck the rope, something Vail strongly discourages. It's really sad such a young life was taken, but it's a harsh reminder that even when you're in bounds, it's still a mountain.

I was pretty upset with the comments regarding Vail's lack of safety on their facebook page. The ski patrol at Vail and every other mountain out here do as much as they can to warn people of the dangers and keep them safe. This is a mountain, not a playground. The run was closed for a reason. You have to take responsibility for yourself and your kids to know the conditions and know where you should and shouldn't ride. If you don't feel comfortable with that, you shouldn't be up there. Being a local, I'm sure he knew the risks... But he was just a boy who wanted to have some fun. Horrible accidents happen, and I blame no one for that avalanche... especially Vail ski patrol.

Prima Cornice can be seen in the center of the map.

Here is a short educational video you should watch that shows just how dangerous the snow pack is right now. This video was taken in Utah, but the snow pack is quite the same. Go ahead and fast forward to :55 to see the main point of the video. It will send shivers down your spine. Stay out of the backcountry folks, it's not worth it!



2 comments to “Avalanche Danger - Extreme”

  • January 27, 2012 at 10:45 AM
    Goose says:

    First, I do agree with you regarding that a ski area is a mountain and must be respected as such. Second, I do not concur with your "not a playground" statement. Vail Mountain Resort is a playground. Unfortunately, one where terrible tragedies like this are always a possibility. None the less, when your average rider pony's up a not so paltry sum of $115.00 plus, plus, plus, for the right to enjoy such a playground, the staff needs to strive for the safest possible environment. Vail did not do this. Now I haven't read all of the facebook posts or other comments. I was just plain struck by the nature of this accident and felt compelled to say something. I have often skied the short steep aspect of Prima Cornice and know that with the extreme avi conditions present, the area must have posed a precarious snow pack. Both parties must accept some fault. The boy should not have skied under a rope( I am guessing, hoping, there was a rope, in addition to a sign.) for which he paid an unthinkable price. The patrollers, on the other hand needed to do a better job of controlling this area for this is mid mountain, not side country. A delayed opening should have occurred if the time getting to these areas was not sufficient. Considering the conditions, it would be hard for me to believe that, a few charges would not have sent that whole side down. Yes we can say, shame on the young man who disobeyed a closure costing him the ultimate price, moreover I say, shame on Vail Resorts for not taking better care.

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  • January 27, 2012 at 12:36 PM
    Ali Gingras says:

    Thanks for the feedback and I understand your point of view. However, the fact that Northwoods is in the center of the resort is what makes it so difficult to manage. You can't open that area late, so in the event of a big over-night storm, I would see the safest possible thing to do would be to close the most dangerous runs instead of trying to do a crappy job managing them before the lifts start running bright and early.

    I see it as perfectly acceptable for ski patrol to be able to close a run and expect no one to ride down it. If you do, that's a risk you're taking.

    Regardless of our point of view, a young boy lost his life because of dangerous snow pack... A tragedy, but an accident.

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