Avalanche Near SLC, UT

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greenonion
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Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by greenonion »

4 skiers died in an avalanche a few short miles from where I live in Salt Lake City. 4 others were caught too but survived. Conditions were ripe. Please everyone be careful and heed warnings and conditions. Even with the low snow in UT and CO this year we both have had too many tragedies this season. Be and stay safe, folks.
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HikerGuy
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Re: Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by HikerGuy »

Devastating losses this year.
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nyker
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Re: Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by nyker »

Not sure how the crowds are out west, but around here, the parking lots are filled with skiers/boarders and the snow has been coming down 5-6 days per week with the last week seeing 2ft so some spots are pretty avalanche prone also depending on where you are.
Below is Whiteface Mountain showing the groomed/maintained side.
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Bale
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Re: Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by Bale »

I am saddened and interested in this as well since I used to ski often in the Wasatch backcountry. It’s worth noting that many of the victims this year were not beginners. May everyone find peace.
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Re: Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by Scott P »

Here's a photo of the avalanche location:
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When I heard that it was on Mill Creek Canyon, I suspected the headwall at Alexander Basin, but it was actually in much gentler terrain far below timberline and just an open area between trees. It must have been really deceptive and appeared safe. It looks like a relatively benign location, but looks can be deceiving.
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Jorts
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Re: Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by Jorts »

Bale wrote: Sun Feb 07, 2021 1:20 pm It’s worth noting that many of the victims this year were not beginners.
Most victims are not beginners. Time for that to become common knowledge instead of a surprise.

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Re: Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by climbingcue »

A very rough 1st six days of February for Avalanche deaths this year. Very sad...
Consecutive months with at least one 14er, 41 months and counting...
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Re: Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by Bale »

I’d like to say that UAC and CAIC do a great job, and their work has probably prevented many, many avy fatalities over the years.
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Re: Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by spoony »

Jorts wrote: Sun Feb 07, 2021 9:26 pm
Bale wrote: Sun Feb 07, 2021 1:20 pm It’s worth noting that many of the victims this year were not beginners.
Most victims are not beginners. Time for that to become common knowledge instead of a surprise.

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Can't emphasize this enough. Everyone was freaked out last fall with the anticipated influx of new backcountry users, but this winter's experience has shown (like the studies of winters past) that new backcountry travelers are (mostly) not the people getting into trouble. I wonder what the best way is to further educate the already educated people?
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Re: Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by curt86iroc »

spoony wrote: Mon Feb 08, 2021 10:01 am I wonder what the best way is to further educate the already educated people?
it may not be a matter of education, but more a matter of risk …and the person's acceptance of risk. my hunch is, the majority of people who were caught and killed this past week knew what the risks were, and decided to accept them. this is a personal choice and education alone isn't going to fix this. everyone's threshold for risk acceptance vs. mitigation is different...and sometimes it catches up with you.
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Re: Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by Jorts »

curt86iroc wrote: Mon Feb 08, 2021 11:09 am my hunch is, the majority of people who were caught and killed this past week knew what the risks were, and decided to accept them. this is a personal choice and education alone isn't going to fix this. everyone's threshold for risk acceptance vs. mitigation is different...and sometimes it catches up with you.
Maybe. I'm not too sure about that though. I think there's a disconnect there between understanding the risk versus application of avalanche knowledge. With increased knowledge and experience backcountry users start to really understand and recognize the obvious hazards: slope angle, slope aspect, elevation, wind loading, etc. And I and others have mentioned it before - there's a positive feedback loop with backcountry decision making (i.e. went for a tour today, didn't have any close calls, my judgements are good).

If you look at the slope where this accident occurred, it appears innocuous. It was only 31 degrees! It has a few open areas but it's fairly well timbered, particularly down ridge. The crown propagated through the trees. An advanced backcountry user who has skied this and similar terrain hundreds of times without incident would think nothing of the risk here. Someone expert - like an avalanche forecaster - would be more likely to recognize this terrain's capacity to produce a large dangerous slide given snowpack conditions. Truly grasping what's possible given very specific conditions... that takes a lot more experience than I have.

So I think those forecaster level experts can make real risk assessments. I don't think intermediate-advanced users are really capable of understanding the risk.
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Re: Avalanche Near SLC, UT

Post by curt86iroc »

Jorts wrote: Mon Feb 08, 2021 12:03 pm
If you look at the slope where this accident occurred, it appears innocuous. It was only 31 degrees! It has a few open areas but it's fairly well timbered, particularly down ridge. The crown propagated through the trees. An advanced backcountry user who has skied this and similar terrain hundreds of times without incident would think nothing of the risk here. Someone expert - like an avalanche forecaster - would be more likely to recognize this terrain's capacity to produce a large dangerous slide given snowpack conditions. Truly grasping what's possible given very specific conditions... that takes a lot more experience than I have.

So I think those forecaster level experts can make real risk assessments. I don't think intermediate-advanced users are really capable of understanding the risk.
I don't agree that one needs to be a forecaster level of experience to understand the risks from Saturday (day of this accident). the hazards were very obvious in that region, and anyone who read the report from UAC knew what the risks were that day. again, i suspect the group was experienced enough to know what the risks were, but accepted them. I'm curious if the survivors speak more about it in the coming weeks. not placing blame here at all. just trying to highlight that we all have different levels of risk acceptance.

https://utahavalanchecenter.org/forecas ... e/2/6/2021

from the forecast (bolded red flags)

Areas of HIGH DANGER exist this morning in steep upper elevation terrain. This danger is most pronounced on north through southeast facing slopes. A CONSIDERABLE danger exists at the mid-elevations and this is where we may see a few close calls today. Avalanches may be up to 5' deep and over several-hundred feet wide. Remember that avalanches can be triggered from a distance.

Recent Avalanches
Greg anticipated the danger spiking to high yesterday during high rates of snowfall and strong winds and this verified with a couple periods of natural avalanching in the high, steep terrain mid-canyon above Little Cottonwood, including areas of White Pine Chutes and the Y/Y-Not.
Two notable avalanches stood out from the backcountry yesterday -
Short Swing area of Mill D North: 9200' North facing unknown trigger estimated at 2' deep and roughly 125' wide
Alexander Basin: a skier remotely triggered an estimated 2-3' deep avalanche possibly up to 500' wide low in the basin at 8600' north facing.
It has been a very active week with nearly 40 natural and human-triggered avalanches reported to the UAC from the Salt Lake mountains. The actual number is likely much higher. This included two very-close calls as well as the second avalanche fatality of the season in the state.
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