Set out with a few friends to ski the area I call The Playground in Flora Creek this afternoon. The wind was ripping from the west, gusting up over 50 mph, and transporting a lot of the new snow we just received. Ryan and Alex, in an attempt to get out of the wind ducked down off the ridge and into the drainage higher up than I did, transitioned, and began to make their way over towards the fun.
About 300 vert down they posted up on a small dirt ridge you can see in the pic above and waited for me. I rode down the ridge parallel to the cornice for a few hundred feet, rolled over the windlip, started to initiate a turn, and boom — I was immediately in a sea of fracturing snow. The crown, between a foot and 20 inches deep, was about 10 feet uphill of me and everything 50 feet in front of me and behind me was all sliding. Fortunately the slab was really soft and I had good momentum to the left, so I was able to ride out of it to a safe zone. But anytime you get caught in anything like that it really makes you reflect on what exactly happened leading up to and during the event.
In this case, the pocket of deep, top loaded, snow was relatively small. As it ran downhill the pitch mellowed out fairly quickly and there was only a couple inches of new snow on top of the old very consolidated and refrozen snow so it never picked up too much momentum and didn’t have the energy necessary to step down into a weaker layer in the older snowpack. The debris spread out leaving a very shallow debris pile no deeper than a foot throughout the majority.
If I were to look back and think about the decisions that lead to this, I would say we were distracted and annoyed by the wind, wanting to get down and out of the wind quickly without taking the time to assess what the snow was doing. On top of that the snow was great for this time of year so there was definitely a level of excitement about skiing powder two days removed from June. On top of that, I had definitely lowered my guard for this type of slide, focusing more intently for the last month on potential for wet slides.
Ultimately, all it takes is one day for us to be back in “winter” conditions, no matter how far along the transition to spring or summer snow we are. Stay safe.
CAIC Observation can be found here: https://avalanche.state.co.us/obs/obs_report.php?obs_id=19780