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The 2020-2021 Ski season thread


Skivt2
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9 hours ago, HIPPYVALLEY said:

People have been dying at an alarming rate across the West in avalanches.  The avie conditions are scary.  That one just outside of Vail boundary that killed someone a day or two ago was massive.  The size of that thing was terrifying, like one of those avalanches where you just have no shot at survival as soon as it breaks.

Then this one killed a local skier just outside of Park City's boundary less than a week ago.  Park City was forced to close their boundary gates due to too many avalanche deaths, which is extremely rare due to it accessing National Forest I believe.

210131141127-square-top-mountain-0131-ex

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The scary part of all the avalanche deaths out west is that many of them, like the one on Mount Washington recently, are mostly very experienced people and/or locals with a great degree of knowledge.  

These summaries of each death are fascinating and yet terrifying...

Kurt and his partner read the avalanche forecast for that day and were very familiar with the area, having skied there for many years. They took 2 previous runs in the backcountry using the 9990 chairlift at PCMR for access. Their first and second runs were just south of Cone Head in the Owen's Line area. Both runs are about 0.6 miles to the south of the 9990 chairlift. They did not see any avalanches, cracking, collapsing, or other signs of unstable snow. 

For their last run in the backcountry, they rode the 9990 chairlift, exited the resort through a gate, and entered the backcountry to ascend Square Top, a peak about 0.5 miles to the north. At approximately 3 p.m., they descended a ridge known as "Square Top Sneak." Approximately 2/3 of the way down the ridge, they stopped to discuss where to go next, as marked in the photo below. Kurt wanted to descend a relatively short 37 degree slope below them, and his partner did not. His partner wanted to stay on the ridge for the final portion of his run. The pair decided that the partner would wait and watch Kurt while he descended before skiing an alternate route down the ridge and and regrouping below. The avalanche occurred just as Kurt entered the slope before he had a chance to turn downhill. He was caught, carried, and almost fully buried in the avalanche.

Discussion%20Point.jpeg

 

His partner witnessed the avalanche and determined it was too dangerous to enter the avalanche path from the top of the slide. He then descended the ridge aiming to enter the avalanche path at the point where he last saw Kurt. He put climbing skins on his skis after reaching the debris, not knowing if he'd have to go uphill or downhill to reach Kurt. At 3:20 p.m., the partner called PCMR Ski Patrol and began a transceiver search. His partner assumed Kurt was downhill and soon acquired the signal from Kurt's transceiver with an indicated range of 60 meters.
 
As he got closer to Kurt's location, he spotted part of a ski boot sticking out of the avalanche debris and began digging. Kurt was found on his right side with his head upslope buried 3-4 feet deep. The partner uncovered Kurt's face and was able to give rescue breaths. Before the partner could move Kurt to begin CPR, he had to dig much deeper because Kurt's right arm was stuck deeper in the snow attached to a ski pole with a wrist strap. The partner contacted the PCMR Ski Patrol during the process and began CPR at 3:40 p.m.
Last%20Seen%20Point.jpeg
The partner noted being tired before they began their descent of Square Top. Searching, digging, and performing rescue breaths/CPR for 30-45 minutes left him exhausted. PCMR Ski Patrol and the Summit County Sheriff's Office asked him to leave the scene so that they could begin recovery operations. Because much of the terrain had not avalanched, PCMR Ski Patrol and the Summit County Sheriff's Office determined that avalanche mitigation was needed to reach the accident site safely. Due to the encroaching darkness, the recovery mission was suspended until Sunday, January 31.
 
On Sunday morning, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and PCMR Ski Patrol conducted an avalanche mitigation mission using explosives deployed from a helicopter. Three additional large slides were released on the slope adjacent to the avalanche accident. Following this mitigation work, rescue personnel from the Summit County Sheriff's Office recovered the victim from the avalanche site. There were no obvious signs of significant trauma.
 
The burial site. The victim's head was buried approximately 3-4 feet deep.
 
burial.png
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1 hour ago, powderfreak said:

The scary part of all the avalanche deaths out west is that many of them, like the one on Mount Washington recently, are mostly very experienced people and/or locals with a great degree of knowledge.  

These summaries of each death are fascinating and yet terrifying...

Kurt and his partner read the avalanche forecast for that day and were very familiar with the area, having skied there for many years. They took 2 previous runs in the backcountry using the 9990 chairlift at PCMR for access. Their first and second runs were just south of Cone Head in the Owen's Line area. Both runs are about 0.6 miles to the south of the 9990 chairlift. They did not see any avalanches, cracking, collapsing, or other signs of unstable snow. 

For their last run in the backcountry, they rode the 9990 chairlift, exited the resort through a gate, and entered the backcountry to ascend Square Top, a peak about 0.5 miles to the north. At approximately 3 p.m., they descended a ridge known as "Square Top Sneak." Approximately 2/3 of the way down the ridge, they stopped to discuss where to go next, as marked in the photo below. Kurt wanted to descend a relatively short 37 degree slope below them, and his partner did not. His partner wanted to stay on the ridge for the final portion of his run. The pair decided that the partner would wait and watch Kurt while he descended before skiing an alternate route down the ridge and and regrouping below. The avalanche occurred just as Kurt entered the slope before he had a chance to turn downhill. He was caught, carried, and almost fully buried in the avalanche.

Discussion%20Point.jpeg

 

His partner witnessed the avalanche and determined it was too dangerous to enter the avalanche path from the top of the slide. He then descended the ridge aiming to enter the avalanche path at the point where he last saw Kurt. He put climbing skins on his skis after reaching the debris, not knowing if he'd have to go uphill or downhill to reach Kurt. At 3:20 p.m., the partner called PCMR Ski Patrol and began a transceiver search. His partner assumed Kurt was downhill and soon acquired the signal from Kurt's transceiver with an indicated range of 60 meters.
 
As he got closer to Kurt's location, he spotted part of a ski boot sticking out of the avalanche debris and began digging. Kurt was found on his right side with his head upslope buried 3-4 feet deep. The partner uncovered Kurt's face and was able to give rescue breaths. Before the partner could move Kurt to begin CPR, he had to dig much deeper because Kurt's right arm was stuck deeper in the snow attached to a ski pole with a wrist strap. The partner contacted the PCMR Ski Patrol during the process and began CPR at 3:40 p.m.
Last%20Seen%20Point.jpeg
The partner noted being tired before they began their descent of Square Top. Searching, digging, and performing rescue breaths/CPR for 30-45 minutes left him exhausted. PCMR Ski Patrol and the Summit County Sheriff's Office asked him to leave the scene so that they could begin recovery operations. Because much of the terrain had not avalanched, PCMR Ski Patrol and the Summit County Sheriff's Office determined that avalanche mitigation was needed to reach the accident site safely. Due to the encroaching darkness, the recovery mission was suspended until Sunday, January 31.
 
On Sunday morning, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and PCMR Ski Patrol conducted an avalanche mitigation mission using explosives deployed from a helicopter. Three additional large slides were released on the slope adjacent to the avalanche accident. Following this mitigation work, rescue personnel from the Summit County Sheriff's Office recovered the victim from the avalanche site. There were no obvious signs of significant trauma.
 
The burial site. The victim's head was buried approximately 3-4 feet deep.
 
burial.png

Sounds like in this case he should have listened to the other person with him who refused to go out on the slope. 

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nice day yesterday classic style nordic at great brook state park skiing for 2 hours. It was fun to ski in set tracks. this morning went back with the skate skis just as it began to snow. yesterday above freezing temps and sunshine had made the skate lanes a bit too icy but with a bit of new snow, things improved nicely and got in a 90 minute session. Headed out into the woods later this pm. the new snow will help there too. looks good for some extended local cross country which I appreciate.

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8 hours ago, PhineasC said:

My 6 year old daughter has been asking about ski racing. She can handle terrain up to diamond level if it is groomed and in decent shape. I can barely catch her at this point. LOL

It looks like most of the official team stuff is for 10 and up. Any idea on options for kids her age to get her started?

 

Each mountain has a different programs.  At Berkshire East where my kids have grown up skiing has the racing development program which starts are 7 or 8.  My son as I remember started at age 7.  My friend right now has his 8 year old daughter in the program.  Not all mountains are the same, Berkshire East has a rich race heritage and starts their programs very young. Other mountains are likely to have some sort of mountain explorers or development club.  If you are interested I'd ask around. 

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12 hours ago, PhineasC said:

My 6 year old daughter has been asking about ski racing. She can handle terrain up to diamond level if it is groomed and in decent shape. I can barely catch her at this point. LOL

It looks like most of the official team stuff is for 10 and up. Any idea on options for kids her age to get her started?

 

There should be a development program at most hills, if not all.  I’d check with the local spots.  Usually at that age they’ll focus on all-mountain skiing as well as racing.  I see Mount Mansfield Ski Club kids out doing balance drills on the beginner trails quite a bit. Then you’ll see the coach taking them on woods runs...gotta keep the kids interested more than anything at that age.

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7 minutes ago, powderfreak said:

There should be a development program at most hills, if not all.  I’d check with the local spots.  Usually at that age they’ll focus on all-mountain skiing as well as racing.  I see Mount Mansfield Ski Club kids out doing balance drills on the beginner trails quite a bit. Then you’ll see the coach taking them on woods runs...gotta keep the kids interested more than anything at that age.

I recall being at Red Mountain in BC and observing the ski club coach and kids standing over about a 15-20 footer... go go go children

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15 minutes ago, radarman said:

I recall being at Red Mountain in BC and observing the ski club coach and kids standing over about a 15-20 footer... go go go children

Yeah I've found kids with coaches on top of ice falls (only 10 feet though) just basically falling into powder, ha.  10 feet feels like 50 feet when you are that size though.

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Franconia Ski Club is...famous, right word? IMO, getting her signed up with an explorer group where she tears around the mountain with peers is the way to go at that age. Agree with PF's comments above about keeping them interested. 

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2 hours ago, KoalaBeer said:

I figured that video would pop up here at some point, and I know this isn’t the thread for it but this is the worst week for winter backcountry enthusiasts in a long time. I believe the toll was 15 dead last week (the worst since 1910) including one in NH up at Washington, and then the two notable tragic incidents that took the lives of 3 and 4 people in CO and UT. The incident in Utah... I have some close friends who knew them and they are hurting. Bright young people all in there 20s. If you are spending time in the winter backcountry this year, please please be extra careful. The slide on Washington was pretty small and buried the victim 13ft deep...

https://mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/avalanche-fatality-ammonoosuc-ravine/

 

That photo doesn’t even do it justice.  But he was buried by a smaller slide and then a massive slide after death it seems covered him in most of the snow after that big storm.  So sad Ian got caught in a freak accident on a low avie danger day.  That is *so far down*.  Also as a rescuer... any other slide, even minor buries all three of those guys easily.

It's hard to comprehend being that far under snow, even if it was a second slide that topped it off.  Sad, sad stuff... RIP Skiin’ Ian.

C0AB69DD-B1B9-47FE-B477-4EA83856AC26.thumb.jpeg.623933d0a49bd568d20e1a04e3965280.jpeg
8D204BA2-5B34-49BA-BFDD-DA57E445257B.jpeg.b3fef4f6957cd89adcc26e637af0e7e2.jpeg

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1 hour ago, KoalaBeer said:

Possibly. I’ve had some deep conversations with friends about how much of it is covid related. Pretty much every fatality has been someone with a good amount of experience in the backcountry. These victims didn’t just start touring this year because of covid. I still primarily blame the extremely fragile snowpack out west this year, there is just a nasty weak layer, but I can’t discount covid having an impact. One good point I was told was the experienced riders are rolling the dice more to beat the new backcountry users to the spots they have been riding for decades, and then there spot slides on them when they’ve never seen that slope slide before, and welp look what happens :(

Yeah it’s not newbies getting killed, it’s very experienced people.  Out west has one of the worst/most dangerous snowpacks they have seen in a very long time.  And many of the deaths lately have been from exiting the ski area boundaries.... so doubt it’s from folks avoiding ski areas.  It’s more that right outside the ski area boundaries it is extremely dangerous and in every one of these (like those snowmobilers in that video) they say “we’ve done this hundreds of times” or something like that.

The slides just outside Park City and outside Vail this week were very knowledgeable locals who got caught in climax slides, basically the entire hillside fell down on them.  Large unsurvivable avalanches.  I’d be terrified out west, even the ski areas are bombing the crap out of everything and ski patrols are being very conservative with openings.

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This one in Utah is terrifying.  The snowpack out there is just a complete disaster.  When multiple groups are getting caught on skin tracks (which are normally set in what are thought of as lower risk areas).... yikes.  This one buried 6 and killed 4.

Look at how big that is!  It's even ripping out in the woods, well down ridge. 

vmacocss05_1217105258501-3-2.jpg

Use2.png

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22 minutes ago, radarman said:

This is the report from the CO avy that killed 3.  It's a classic terrain trap.  One of the guys was found 16' down and it took rescue teams with power tools 2 days to reach him.  

https://snowbrains.com/full-caic-avalanche-report-silverton-colorado/

That is an absolute monster slide... into a terrain trap that must hold snow into August from the slide action.  It would be tough to go into the western US backcountry and ski anything steeper than 30 degrees at this point, or even wander near one.   That weak layer isn't going anywhere...no matter how much it snows now, that will be lurking underneath. 

" The crown face of the avalanche was two to three feet deep and over five feet at the deepest point. The avalanche was up to 1000 feet wide and ran 1500 vertical feet."

y7ve7g52mg5j5cuajj49qox7ebn1-pichi.jpg

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Chest high crowns across a football field's width. Yikes.  The inflatable vest is pretty much a must and even then you're just hoping to end up near the surface.  Many of us would be lying if we said we'd never been in prone positions, even in bounds and trying to be smart.  But weeks like this really do bring the message home.  You can't mess around.  It looks so tempting at times but just not worth the risk.

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Just now, radarman said:

Chest high crowns across a football field's width. Yikes.  The inflatable vest is pretty much a must and even then you're just hoping to end up near the surface.  Many of us would be lying if we said we'd never been in prone positions, even in bounds and trying to be smart.  But weeks like this really do bring the message home.  You can't mess around.  It looks so tempting at times but just not worth the risk.

Check out this crown line between Canyons and Park City in Utah.  Natural slide from a cornice failure but holy crap at that crown.

That's an incredible amount of dense, concrete like snow to slide.

B9B895C0-90D9-49E6-8657-A69CFA272EF4.jpe

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Just now, powderfreak said:

Check out this crown line between Canyons and Park City in Utah.  Natural slide from a cornice failure but holy crap at that crown.

That's an incredible amount of dense, concrete like snow to slide.

B9B895C0-90D9-49E6-8657-A69CFA272EF4.jpe

Yeah... I was referring to that other Utah pic you posted.  Maybe the airbag gives you a chance?  But the Colorado slide you're getting a thousand tons of snow dumped on your head, at least it would be quick.  And this crown here is just stupid.

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2 minutes ago, radarman said:

Yeah... I was referring to that other Utah pic you posted.  Maybe the airbag gives you a chance?  But the Colorado slide you're getting a thousand tons of snow dumped on your head, at least it would be quick.  And this crown here is just stupid.

Oh yeah for sure, just sharing another pic of a different slide.  I think an airbag definitely gives you a chance if you survive without trauma (not getting strained through trees or something).  I'd have an airbag for sure given the current weaknesses in the snowpack.  The CO gully one, yeah that's like getting buried in the concrete pillars of a parking garage or something.  I'd be walking on eggshells out there.

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Read this on the avalanche advisory.... do you do into the backcountry?  I think there are safer BC routes out there but seems like a good time for some resort skiing in the west, if possible.

Description
Dangerous avalanches 2-5' deep, and hundreds of feet wide are still possible on steep mid and upper elevation slopes. These conditions will be most pronounced on steep west to southeast facing slopes. If an area has any signs of wind loading, we could see even deeper avalanches breaking, up to 5-10' deep, that initially fail in the wind drifted snow and step down into the weak faceted snow near the ground. Either way, these avalanches are likely to be unsurvivable.
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I totally messed up and spaced on making a Epic reservation at Stowe for my wife and I this Sunday. My kids are all set as they are part of the Busters program. @powderfreak any insight into if/when Vail Resorts might release additional spots? With the resort almost 100% open I'd expect capacity to wide open, but it's obviously the most busy weekend of the year...Regardless I keep checking the reservation site for a miracle. 

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I have two reservations this week, Sunapee and wildcat and went to buy a youth ticket for my 10 year old nephew and there are no tickets available. I then went to other Vail resorts and this seems to be the rule. On one hand, irritated (at myself) which is outweighed by happy to see them limiting sales for safety reasons. I meant to add on my quick summary of my visit last Thursday to Stowe that mask wearing was excellent!

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1 hour ago, dmconno said:

I totally messed up and spaced on making a Epic reservation at Stowe for my wife and I this Sunday. My kids are all set as they are part of the Busters program. @powderfreak any insight into if/when Vail Resorts might release additional spots? With the resort almost 100% open I'd expect capacity to wide open, but it's obviously the most busy weekend of the year...Regardless I keep checking the reservation site for a miracle. 

Unfortunately you just have to pound the refresh button on the reservation page.  They won't be releasing more spots, but people do cancel.  I know folks who have been able to get one during the holiday weekends so far by checking religiously.  Unfortunately the most likely time to find an opening is usually the morning of, almost like going to a sold out sporting event but waiting outside the gates to scalp a ticket. 

It's been a weird winter and as someone who has access to and reads as many guest surveys as possible (the written comments are telling), I know that whenever you hit capacity/sell out (Christmas holiday period, MLK, powder Saturday's this last month and now President's weekend) there are people angry that the capacity limit isn't lower... and there are people very unhappy that they can't ski.  It's one or the other depending on the person's experience.

You are right, that unfortunately President's Weekend can often be the #1 weekend of the season for visitation... depending on how MLK weekend or the Christmas period went.  This year the snow is definitely the best it's been all winter long and heading into one of the big three weekends.  Good luck dude, I wish I could help ya out more.

 

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1 hour ago, Angus said:

I have two reservations this week, Sunapee and wildcat and went to buy a youth ticket for my 10 year old nephew and there are no tickets available. I then went to other Vail resorts and this seems to be the rule. On one hand, irritated (at myself) which is outweighed by happy to see them limiting sales for safety reasons. I meant to add on my quick summary of my visit last Thursday to Stowe that mask wearing was excellent!

It's for safety for sure, but also for the guest experience given other capacity restrictions.  Lodges have a sharply reduced capacity per square footage and the time limits set at 30 minutes inside... but the big reason for the limitations are the lift lines.  Uphill capacity has been severely restricted and to be honest, it's keep the conditions much better and given me a lot more access to untracked powder.  I'm getting less runs for sure, but they are quality runs.

From my observations, the FourRunner Quad averages around 2 people per chair as singles will often be ok with doubling up.  Sometimes you get a group of 3 or 4 to even it out.  These are state guidelines too, not ski area ones.  It's the same at all resorts, with no more than 2 singles on a Quad and 1 single on a triple, double or enclosed Gondola.  The Gondola at Stowe actually averages less than 2 passengers per 8-person cabin.  The uphill capacity of the Gondola is somewhere between the MRG single and a double chair this season.  I still remember when it hit me that uphill capacity was at like 20% of a normal season.  In front of me it often takes like 6 cabins to get 8 people up the mountain, because if you are a single you ride alone and there are a lot of singles.... when a normal season those same 6 cabins could carry 48 people in line and we would regularly do it, the lifties stuffing singles into every empty seat.

So by my estimates, the FourRunner has been running 50% normal uphill capacity and the Gondola at around 20%.  That is just crazy, but the benefit is the run down is just a lot of powder.  The groomers just don't get skied off like they used to, you can find corduroy late in the morning and packed powder all day long.

A recently powder morning this week had me counting the chair capacity in the photos.  Despite a full coral, the seats are only 56% filled in this photo.  A group of 4 really skews the numbers, those are very rare these days.  But it keeps the powder around a lot longer.

56percentuphillcapacity.thumb.jpg.d30a13dfaf394fa7f782283353d61cff.jpg

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