Avalanche Control–What a Day!

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Yesterday I did two avalanche control routes with my good friend Anna. Due to the high winds and heavy snow of the previous day, the mountain was blown flat–rendered smooth and filled in. I love those kind of days when the mountain feels pristine and clean as if never touched by skis or boards.

But wind slabs are dangerous too.

Debris from the slides we started piled up high below Horseshoe cliffs. A shot placed in just the right spot can penetrate a weak spot and yank free an avalanche. Other teams got big results too. But then other shots did nothing.

In Southback, my first shot on the southeast side of the King pulled out an 8 incher that spread through the lower bench–not a bad result. But when the debris settled, Anna and I realized the pile of debris at the bottom was much too large. We later realized why.

When it barreled through the steeper section below the bench midway down, the weight of the avalanche broke lose a deeper layer–perhaps 2 feet lower, creating a much bigger, much deadlier avalanche.

The team on the north side of the King had a similar result above Elizabeth lake. Perhaps we have a buried surface hoar layer weakening our lower snowpack.

Looking out past ThreeWay in Southback, I also noticed signs of natural avalanches all the way from Joe’s Badass Shoulder, past Speed Control and Rooster Head towards Dogleg. From a distance, it’s hard to tell, but I saw what could have been a six-foot crown.

We finally opened Southback at 3pm, and in just 30 minutes of being open, our reliable skiers came to track it up and help stabilize the slope. Thanks to all those that kept the faith, didn’t leave early, waited at the gate off of Chair 6 and were rewarded with the deep promise of a pristine line all to themselves. I even saw Ross Gregg, Dirtbag King, enjoying some fresh turns.

All in all, an amazing day on the mountain!

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