Climax Avalanches at Crystal: Unusual Snowpack Causing Big Slides


Rock Face Slide with Debris Below



During the past two days, we have had some very large avalanches at Crystal. Yesterday Rock Face slid to the ground. Center Chute went naturally and the rest was shot with explosives. The debris went well into Kelly’s Gap Road, ripping up 100 year old timber and redefining the path. A 150cm crown now extends along the top of the face, around the chutes and all the way across Upper and Lower Eagles. Thankfully, no one was caught or injured in these slides. But the destructive nature of avalanches are quite a force to behold. The sound of trees snapping below Rock Face (in the Berry Patch area and below) could be heard throughout the base area yesterday.Kelly’s Gap will, most likely, remain closed for the remainder of the season, as the piles of debris and broken trees are nearly fifty feet high in places.

Rock Face Debris Over Kelly's Gap Road

6 foot crown in Bear Pits

Today we saw a similar result in Bear Pits, where huge, old trees lay scattered amongst the thirty foot piles of debris at the bottom. The trees that were left standing show evidence of the massive force. Notice in this photo how high up in the tree the

Broken Branches Caused by Avalanche

Broken Branches Caused by Avalanche

limbs were pulled off. The cedars pictured on the right have been completely denuded of branches.

Bear Pits Debris

These slides are a result of persistent weak layers, such as the rain crust from MLK weekend. Regardless of the snow at the surface (today we have four inches of fresh over the rain-soaked pack), the snowpack is moving. Much like a glacier, a heavy spring snowpack, like ours, can creep and glide down the hill, often times causing massive climax avalanches. Today, if you were to poke your ski pole into the snow, you might even think it was stable–just a few inches of new over the still-unfrozen slush. No big deal, you might think.

Think again.

We are currently experiencing very unusual conditions in the snowpack, and until it stabilizes, we will continue to monitor it and try to mitigate the hazard with explosives and closures. Please be cautious out there, and save the backcountry tours until the snowpack settles out.

Check out this video of one of the Rock Face slides yesterday.

15 responses »

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  2. Skied around checking all this out….WOW! It is amazing. Hope it opens the eyes of those that go where they shouldn’t!!! Thanks for all the hard work of the ski patrol doing their jobs!

  3. Hi Kim – Not sure if you remember, but we exchanged blog comments a while back (my blog is My boyfriend and I were actually at Crystal this weekend and kept hearing all of the blasting, so it was nice to get a detailed overview of what was happening. I even shared your post with my friends and family on my blog. Crazy stuff! Thanks for working hard to keep us skiers safe!

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  5. what amazing devastation in the last couple of days, what an amazing ski patrol. We are so lucky to be protected by such an incredible crew

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  7. Thank you for the great job the Ski Patrol is doing to keep us alive and safe. And thank you for keeping us informed of the devastation and the danger. It is pretty overwhelming to see photos of the incredible destruction of areas I skied just a few days ago.
    It is great to know what is happening at Crystal. Being informed makes me feel more like an “insider” rather than just a dumb tourist.
    Kim, you are doing a great job and all your hard work is greatly appreciated.

    • Jim,
      Thanks for your comment. A large part of the job as a ski patroller is education. Keeping everyone informed is the best possible way to stay safe. All the best!

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