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First Avalanche of the Year

Mountain Riding

 
 
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  #1  
Old 12-02-2007
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Default First Avalanche of the Year

LARIMER COUNTY – Rescue workers are praising three backcountry skiers for their safety preparations which saved a life.

The men were hiking into an area known as the Hot Dog Bowl, near Cameron Pass along Highway 14 about 70 miles west of Fort Collins.

Around 2:30 p.m., before the men could begin skiing, the snow in the bowl began to slide. The avalanche buried one man under six feet of snow.

Before rescue crews arrived, the skier's friends were able to dig him out and resuscitate him. It is believed he was buried for about 10 minutes.

He was airlifted to Medical Center of the Rockies. His name and condition were not immediately released.

Tony Simons with Larimer County Emergency Services says the skiers were well-prepared for an avalanche.

"They had avalanche beacons. They had shovels. They knew how to use them," Simons said. "They responded in the most appropriate way that anybody could ask."

Simons said that early season snows were layered underneath recent snowfall in Hot Dog Bowl and high winds may have also contributed to the avalanche.

This happened today December 2 and this is only a few miles from where we sled.
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Last edited by RMKer : 12-02-2007 at 11:23 PM.
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  #2  
Old 12-04-2007
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Talked with the State Forest today and they had another Avy the other day at diamond peaks this is real close to where we ride.
conditions are really shitty right now.
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  #3  
Old 12-07-2007
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Avalanche danger is high in Colorado's nothern mountains in the area's around Camran Pass. Use caution if riding there this weekend.
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Old 01-09-2008
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This is an excerpt from an email from SAWS. Pretty good reading for all who venture into Avy terrain.


Avalanche Safety Basics

By Sandy K. Ott



For Mountain Riders, or Those Going Into the Mountains to Ride




There is one common theme when the avalanche experts go investigate avy incidents. The responses they get almost every single time are some form of these:

"I've never seen that area slide before"

"I didn't think it would/could slide there"

"I didn't think it was steep enough to slide"

"I've been riding here for years, and never any trouble before"

"This area isn't known for avalanches"

"I saw other tracks there and thought it was safe"


Many of us never give a second thought to avalanche safety. We just assume that our lives will never be touched by an avalanche incident. This is just a delusion we create for ourselves so that we don't have to face the reality that this could happen to us, one of our friends, or a loved one. An avalanche can happen to anyone at any time. There are many ways in which we can raise our avalanche awareness and encourage our families and friends to do the same. Snowmobiling is a social sport, and if you tell others you won’t ride with them if they don’t have the proper gear and training, they will want to get it so they aren’t left out, and without anyone to ride with. Everyone who does any sort of riding in any area where avalanches are possible needs to become knowledgeable about and prepared for them. Since most of us are skilled in our chosen sport of snowmobiling but have little or no avalanche skills, trouble begins. This becomes a critical deficiency. Avalanches can happen naturally, or be caused by us. Most avalanche incidents are caused by the human factor. Modern machines can climb higher than ever before. However, there are things we can do to be safer.

The Avalanche Beacon

Purchasing an avalanche beacon is an investment in your life. There are several different brands available, such as the “Tracker”, "Pieps", “SOS”, “Pulse”, or “Ortovox”, to name a few. You need to become familiar with the use of your beacon. Just having one isn't enough! Don't get a false sense of security that just owning (or borrowing or renting) one will save you. Are your friends or family knowledgeable in their use? You can't expect to be saved or save someone else if you don't know the proper use of this valuable tool. The time to learn is not during an actual crisis where someone's life is dependent upon this knowledge. Practice is important. You have to rely on knowledge first and the equipment second. Wear your transceiver around your neck and inside your jacket. If you carry a radio, cell phone (turned off), etc., you will want to wear your beacon on the opposite side of the body from that equipment (left and right). You don't want electrical interference, which can occur with these items, to interfere with your life being saved. Make sure you have good batteries installed in your unit. After all day use for several rides, you may want to replace the batteries with new ones. You can use those other batteries in something else that doesn't have to do with saving your life. The other tools which go hand in hand with the avalanche beacons are probe poles and shovels. These items are also crucial to a successful recovery in conjunction with the transceivers. The little bit of extra weight is worth carrying. It is a far better option than the heavy weight that could live on your shoulders for the rest of your life had you needed those items and neglected to have them with you because of the few extra pounds they add. Having the proper avalanche awareness training is also key. Take a class. Just having the avalanche gear alone does not make you safe. You need to learn to read the signs that mother nature provides us, and how to stay away from high avalanche danger areas.

Some Avalanche Statistics



There is a 92% chance of survival if the buried victim is found within 15 minutes. That drops to 30% at 35 minutes, and just 3% at a little over 2 hours.

One half of completely buried victims die within the first half-hour.

Only one third of avalanche victims die from trauma. The other two thirds die from suffocation.

Only 2% of victims live long enough to die from hypothermia.

The average avalanche burial is 4-5 feet down.

The most common type, and the deadliest of avalanches, is the slab avalanche.



Getting Ready For and Riding

Ok, so you have your transceiver, and you have practiced its use. Now the morning of a ride arrives. Pick up your phone and call the avalanche hotline to find out what the danger in your area is and in the area you will be riding. You should do this every time before you go out for a ride. Most all areas have a number you can call for this information.



While out on your ride, pay attention and be aware of the conditions around you. Have there been recent avalanches in this area? Is the area capable of producing an avalanche? These are just a couple of the questions you need to ask yourself. Avalanches can occur on long or short slopes. A 38-degree angle is most common for avalanches. 30 degrees is barely steep enough to slide (but it still can), and seldom do slides happen above 45 degrees (the snow tends to continually sluff off by itself due to the steepness). You can purchase an inexpensive compass with an inclinometer built into it for measuring slope angles.

Practice safe riding techniques on your sled. Cross high-risk areas one at a time. That way you have lots of eyes on you should the unthinkable occur, as well as there only being one victim. It's much better to have only one victim, with many persons for a rescue, then to have several victims at the same time. If you are dropping off a ridge, the same thing applies, one at a time. You can keep an eye on the person going down before you as well as not start an avalanche above that person which could envelope both of you. If highmarking, again, it's only one at a time. Do NOT allow peer pressure to force you into doing something you are uncomfortable with. Just because your family member or friend climbed a certain spot doesn't mean that you have to do it! Don’t be afraid to speak up. If something doesn’t look or feel right to you, say so.

Caught In an Avalanche?

If you do happen to be caught in an avalanche, fight for your life. The first thing you need to do is yell, and yell loud. You want all eyes on you for rescue purposes as well as to alert others of the danger. If possible, try to ride to the side and out of it. If you can't get off to the side, then try to outrun it, and don't be shy on the throttle. If the avalanche does overcome you, then do try to keep to the top of it. Do this with a swimming motion (if you happen to be on your back, then backstroke). Your chances of survival, when buried in 6 or more feet of snow, are almost negligible. When you feel the slide coming to a stop, try to clear your mouth of any snow that may have gotten in it. Try to create an air space if possible. Finally, try getting an arm to the surface for an indicator of where you are buried. Once things have completely stopped, you are going to be tightly packed in place, as if in cement. You have from 1 - 3 seconds before the snow sets, which isn't long to try to accomplish the above things. After everything is stopped, conserve your energy. Try NOT to panic and waste valuable oxygen and energy you will need for survival.

Witnessing an Avalanche, and Finding a Buried Victim

If you witness someone caught in an avalanche, keep your eyes on them as long as possible (make sure you are out of harms way when doing this). This will help to locate that person. Once the avalanche has stopped, don't just go off wildly. That doesn't help anyone. You need to keep calm. First, make sure it's safe, with no further avalanche danger to yourself or others, before you enter the area. You don't want yourself or anyone else to also fall victim. You want everyone in your group to stay there to help with the rescue. Don't send anyone out for help at this point. Every single person is needed for the search and digging. REMEMBER, half die within the first 30 minutes. Time is of the essence. By the time someone got out to contact an outside rescue party and that rescue party readied itself and arrived on scene, they're going to be helping dig out a dead body.

Search in an organized manner. Go to the place the person was last seen. Turn your beacons to receive. Mark this spot where the person was last seen for future reference. Search downhill from this spot. Look for clues (a hand sticking up, a glove, etc.), and leave any items such as loose gloves in place. Make sure you have your probe poles and shovels with you during your search. You don't want to waste any time. Work quickly, but efficiently. You want to be able to find that person with the first hole you dig. If there is more than one person buried, once you find the first one, you may want to just give them airspace (if they are still breathing and able to speak to you) then go on to find the second person. If you have enough people, then have one or two persons finish getting the first person completely out while the others search for the other victim. When this first person is out, turn off this person's transceiver so that it doesn't interfere with the search for others. After you have the person(s) found and dug out, then you can send someone for help if assistance is needed. If it has been approximately an hour (use judgment on this) into your search with no luck (this shouldn't happen if you have taken the time to become knowledgeable on avalanche safety and the use of your transceivers), then you can send a person out for help.

Finding More Info on Avalanche Safety and Tips

You can find more avalanche info in many other places. What I've written by no means contains all the info available. This is just meant to begin your avalanche education, to encourage you to be safe, as well as to be prepared. You can find more information out on the net. Take an avy class. There are videos that you can buy. Two videos I highly recommend are: A Dozen More Turns, and Winning The Avalanche Game. Some very good books are: Backcountry Avalanche Awareness; by Bruce Jamieson (smaller, easy to read and informative book), Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain; by Bruce Tremper (larger more in depth book), and The Avalanche Handbook; by David McClung and Peter Schaerer (this is more like a textbook and goes into great depth).

A Dozen More Turns can be purchased for $5.49 shipped at:
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-...turns_dvd.html

Or you can watch, or download it for free at:
http://revver.com/video/310519/a-dozen-more-turns/

Some other informative links:

An Avalanche Beacon Review site:

http://www.beaconreviews.com/transceivers/



Avalanche.org:

http://www.avalanche.org/



Avalanche.ca:

http://www.avalanche.ca/



Avalanche and Snow Dynamics; an Online course:

http://ocw.usu.edu/Forest__Range__an...Course_listing



Avalanche First Response Interactive site:

http://access.jibc.bc.ca/avalancheFi...nse/course.htm



Beacon Searching 101, Probing 101, Shoveling 101, as well as PowerPoint Presentations:

http://www.backcountryaccess.com/eng...n/teaching.php



Forest Service National Avalanche Center:

http://www.fsavalanche.org/basics/sled_index.html



Training for safe travel in Avalanche Terrain:

http://www.avalanchetraining.info/



White Risk; an Interactive CD you can purchase (VERY good). Click on “E” at the top left of the page to go to English:

http://www.whiterisk.org/



Take the time to educate yourself and to practice what you learn. Encourage those with whom you ride, to become knowledgeable as well (you may have to rely on them to save your life). For all of the time and money we spend on our sleds, our lives are still the most valuable of all!!
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BlueRibbon Coalition Preserving Our Natural Resource FOR The People Instead of FROM The People


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Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.

Last edited by Vertical_Escape : 01-09-2008 at 10:18 AM.
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  #5  
Old 01-09-2008
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^^ Never read what to do in case of an avalanche, only because we don't have them. Was a good read and I'll remember it.
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Old 01-09-2008
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^Me neither, and for the same reason.

Now I am a little nervous for our up and coming first stab at "mountain riding" in March.

RMKer, Vertical Edge, either of you know about the avalanche prevalence in the Grand Lake riding area?

Nothing on any of the sled or lodging sites makes any mention or forewarning of such, but after reading the above, I am inclined to believe it is still very much a real possibility.

I wonder if the rental places supply beacons and shovels?..................

Well, this trail-burning, lake-ripping flat-lander will definately have this in the forefront of my thoughts as we set off for a new riding experience...........safety first.

Thanks for the good read.
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Old 01-09-2008
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Originally Posted by RipnChick View Post
RMKer, Vertical Edge, either of you know about the avalanche prevalence in the Grand Lake riding area?
I'm not familiar with the area in CO. However here's link to trail conditions for state.
http://www.coloradosledcity.com/merc...?id=220&step=2

Quote:
Originally Posted by RipnChick View Post

I wonder if the rental places supply beacons and shovels?..................
Not sure on local business availability on beacons and gear, check with them and clarify.... Most do rent equipment.
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Snow Cover US
Snowmobile Alliance of Western States Cutting Through Deceptions and Perceptions To Protect YOUR RIGHT To Ride.
BlueRibbon Coalition Preserving Our Natural Resource FOR The People Instead of FROM The People


http://www.mtn-paradise.com



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Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.
Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
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Old 01-09-2008
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They did have an avalanche up in that area on one mountain about a week ago. We are really good about staying away from those areas, and RMKer is very mountains smart, so you do not need to worry - we do not take chances. We will be sure to check things out good before we venture out.
I have insured's here that I know sled in that area, so I will check with them about the area and conditions, and good spots to sled and stay away from.

Last edited by indygirl : 01-09-2008 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 01-09-2008
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I just got off the phone with one of our insureds. He said there is a lot of great riding, trail and off trail, and some deep powder area that we will enjoy. As far as avalanche danger, it is really not that high of a risk there. Gravel Mtn where they did have the avalanche, it was way up on top and they were riding the crest - not smart. We have no need to do that. He also said you will love the scenery up there - very beautiful.
He suggested that we take Cty Rd 4 head West to an area called Still Water Pass. There is a big parking lot there to unload and a lot of great riding areas.
No worries - we will be safe and have a great time! RMKer and I may go down on that Sunday and check that area out before you get here.
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Old 01-09-2008
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My intent with the above info was simply to make people aware, not scare them. Riding in the Mtn. backcountry can be done as safely as flatland riding, provided riders are aware and prepared. I'm a bit overcautious at times due to seeing how powerful a full blown avy can be.


Ride Smart - Ride Safe
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Scars heal,
Glory fades,
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Snow Cover US
Snowmobile Alliance of Western States Cutting Through Deceptions and Perceptions To Protect YOUR RIGHT To Ride.
BlueRibbon Coalition Preserving Our Natural Resource FOR The People Instead of FROM The People


http://www.mtn-paradise.com



Quote:
Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.
Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
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Old 01-09-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vertical_Escape View Post
My intent with the above info was simply to make people aware, not scare them. Riding in the Mtn. backcountry can be done as safely as flatland riding, provided riders are aware and prepared. I'm a bit overcautious at times due to seeing how powerful a full blown avy can be.


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I think that was really good info you shared. We too tend to ride more cautious and not take chances!
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Old 01-09-2008
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Originally Posted by indygirl View Post
I think that was really good info you shared. We too tend to ride more cautious and not take chances!
Thanks indy, I will take chances, but only educated ones that won't cause serious injury or equipment damage. I know my limits and try to stay within them.
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Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
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Old 01-09-2008
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Good points all. Vertical Edge, I realize your intent was not to scare, but when you are faced with the unknown, it can be daunting. I wouldn't really call myself scared, just anxious about what to expect under conditions that I am not used to.

Thanks indygirl, I feel quite relieved reading your info. And I'm sure you and mountain man, aka: RMKer will keep our ride party safe.:D

as far as the risk takers............I think I may need to bring a tether for my husband. LOL!
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Old 01-09-2008
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as far as the risk takers............I think I may need to bring a tether for my husband. LOL!
We can just hook him up to the bungy cord lol
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Old 01-09-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vertical_Escape View Post
My intent with the above info was simply to make people aware, not scare them. Riding in the Mtn. backcountry can be done as safely as flatland riding, provided riders are aware and prepared. I'm a bit overcautious at times due to seeing how powerful a full blown avy can be.


Ride Smart - Ride Safe
I wouldn't go as far as to say that mountain backcountry riding is just as safe as in the flatlands. Here, we're never more than a mile from a road, and if anything goes wrong you just walk to the nearest farmplace to get help. Being 30 miles back in the wilderness always exposes you to much more risk, but that doesn't mean that riding in the mountains has to be more dangerous, as you stated. Maybe it's more safe out there because spruce and pine trees are softer to hit than oak and maple trees.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rubi View Post
I wouldn't go as far as to say that mountain backcountry riding is just as safe as in the flatlands. Here, we're never more than a mile from a road, and if anything goes wrong you just walk to the nearest farmplace to get help. Being 30 miles back in the wilderness always exposes you to much more risk, but that doesn't mean that riding in the mountains has to be more dangerous, as you stated. Maybe it's more safe out there because spruce and pine trees are softer to hit than oak and maple trees.
Good point on the distance in, I know in our typical riding area we are every bit of 40-45 miles in. Cell phone signal is sporadic at best and usually not available at all.

Not sure how soft an oak is, but i know 1st hand pines hurt like hell when hit under power......LOL.

Seriously though, I mean if proper precautions and education are utilized, along with a good dose of common sense, backcountry riding in the mountains can be done just as safely as running the trails in the flats.
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Snow Cover US
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BlueRibbon Coalition Preserving Our Natural Resource FOR The People Instead of FROM The People


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  #17  
Old 01-09-2008
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The biggest thing with avys is to many people ride out on the open slopes or up the old avalance chutes. If you hill climb in the trees there is a less chance of a slide cause the trees hold the snow pack. Not saying it can't slide, but it's a lot safer than wide open slopes. The only slopes I've rode up were pretty hard packed and not layered yet. You just have to be smart and if your unsure than that's reason enough to stay away.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RMKer View Post
The biggest thing with avys is to many people ride out on the open slopes or up the old avalance chutes. If you hill climb in the trees there is a less chance of a slide cause the trees hold the snow pack. Not saying it can't slide, but it's a lot safer than wide open slopes. The only slopes I've rode up were pretty hard packed and not layered yet. You just have to be smart and if your unsure than that's reason enough to stay away.
Good advice RMKer, in or below the tree line is almost always safer than above or in an open, obvious chute. Leave the chutes for those willing to risk it for the films. Though I love the films of it, and the thought of trying it rears up now and then, self-preservation kicks and and reminds me not to be an idiot and try it.....
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Snow Cover US
Snowmobile Alliance of Western States Cutting Through Deceptions and Perceptions To Protect YOUR RIGHT To Ride.
BlueRibbon Coalition Preserving Our Natural Resource FOR The People Instead of FROM The People


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Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
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Old 01-10-2008
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Screw self-preservation! Get out your shovel and dig a pit on an aspect with the same exposure as that sick line you want to climb. Take your snow saw and cut some vertical kerfs in the uphill side of the pit. Give it a couple pats with the shovel or side check it with your skis (if you've got them along) and see if there's a defined fracture layer. If it's stable; turn on your Pieps, slam a can of your favorite energy drink, make sure your Monster stickers are buffed and shiny, hop on your sled, and pinch the flipper to the bar!
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Old 01-10-2008
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Rubi I'll let you check it and then ride it.

Most slides around here seem to start about 1/2 to 3/4 up the slope so that's where you should actually check the snow pack. The bottom can give you a false reading. Ride up half way and you may have already started the slide so no checking neccessary.
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I guess most of my snow science experience comes from skiing, where you're already on top. Once we were stupid, and hiked directly up the slope we were going to ski. If it had been a dry cold winter snowpack instead of heavy spring snow we probably would have been buried. The wet snow came at us relatively slowly for the steepness of the slope. The leader and I heard a funny swishing, roaring sound and we looked up to see a mountain of snow bearing down on us. We yelled "slide" and started sprinting for cover. It's funny what amazing things you can do with adrenaline. We were slogging up that mountain, over our knees in snow, making no progress at all. As soon as we saw that slide, we were all sprinting on top of the snow to safety. We examined the slide after it stopped. It's kind of sobering to see the footprints you'd just made, leading right under a 12 foot pile of avalanche debris. Where the slide stopped, it was between 250 and 300 feet wide, and from 8 to 12 feet high. If we hadn't been close to the edge of its path, things would not have been good. I try to remember that experience, but whenever I spot a really tasty line, I'm always tempted.
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Old 01-11-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RMKer View Post
Rubi I'll let you check it and then ride it.

Most slides around here seem to start about 1/2 to 3/4 up the slope so that's where you should actually check the snow pack. The bottom can give you a false reading. Ride up half way and you may have already started the slide so no checking neccessary.
I've gotta agree with RMKer on this one, cautious checking of a smaller, similar aspect slope prior to attacking the biggies is always a good idea. Especially with the snowfall totals and weather we've been getting lately. Our (WY, UT, CO.) snowpack has been overloaded to the extreme. Pile all that weight on the rotten snow left over from early fall snows and it's a slide just waiting for the unsuspecting trigger in a lot of cases.

While I'm just as guilty as any other of looking up and having that thought race thru "Looks great - it's doable", I'm making myself really stop and evaluate whether it's worth the risk just to get the rush and maybe show-up the younger riders with our group.

We had a small avy come down on us the last wekend of 07 as we rode by on the trail. Slide was about 50' wide and ran vertical only about 75'. Break point was about 28" at most. Though small and everyone cleared it OK, it did scare a few riding with us including myself who had just minutes earlier had highmarked on the slope that released.

So yeah, I'm real fond of allowing self-preservation to do it's thing right now. A month from now when snowpack has settled down that may not be so, but for now I'll let it get me to that period....

AVY Report for my Area Today

BTNF Backcountry Avalanche Hazard & Weather Forecast

Southwest Trails/Grey's River Area
Jackson Ranger District, POB 1689, Jackson WY 83001
Issued: Fri January 11, 2008 6:13 AM

M O U N T A I N - W E A T H E R - P A S T - 2 4 - H O U R S

5:00 AM Temperature at 10,400': 12 F
Maximum Temperature at 10,400' Past 24 Hours: 12 F Average Wind Direction at 10,400' Past 24 Hours: Westerly Average Wind Speed at 10,400' Past 24 Hours: 24 MPH Maximum Wind Gust at 10,400' Past 24 Hours: 49 MPH Snowfall/Prec. Past 24 Hours Blind Bull Meadow: 9"/0.5"
Total Snow Depth 9,300' Elevation Blind Bull Meadow: 53""
Total Snowfall Starting October 1 Blind Bull Meadow: 136"
Snowfall/Prec. Past 24 Hours Box Y Ranch: 7"/0.6"
Total Snow Depth 6,300' Elevation Box Y Ranch: 39"
Total Snowfall Starting October 1 Box Y Ranch: 95"

M O U N T A I N - W E A T H E R - F O R E C A S T - F O R - T O D A Y

Periods of snow heavy at times.

Temperature Forecast for 8,000'-9,000': Rising to near 20 degrees.
Ridge Top Wind Forecast for 10,000': West at 30 to 35 miles per hour with higher gusts.
Snowfall Expected Next 24 Hours: 5"

G E N E R A L - A V A L A N C H E - A D V I S O R Y

The General Avalanche Hazard is CONSIDERABLE. Over 30 inches of new snow has fallen in the past six days. West to southwest winds have formed new soft slabs up to three feet in depth on leeward aspects. Weak layers of faceted snow persist deep in the snowpack. Soft slabs one to three feet in depth are likely to be easily triggered by humans today on steep wind loaded slopes and have potential to step down to deeper weak layers.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Extreme: Wide spread areas of unstable snow exist and avalanches are certain on some slopes.
Backcountry travel should be avoided.

High: Mostly unstable snow exists on a variety of aspects and slope angles.
Natural avalanches are likely. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended.

Considerable: Dangerous unstable slabs exist on steep terrain on certain aspects.
Human triggered avalanches probable. Natural avalanches possible.

Moderate: Areas of unstable snow exist. Human triggered avalanches are possible.
Larger triggers may be necessary as the snowpack becomes more stable. Use caution.

Low: Mostly stable snow exists. Avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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