Avalanche condtions

Know before you go.

Good gear, stay warm, always check avalanche conditions
photo/J Ferris

Anyone who ventures into the snowy back county on a regular basis knows that all snow is different. Each day is different. They also know that avalanche conditions vary from day to day and place to place. It’s the reason they check the Sierra Avalanche Center website before they head out there. Snow in the mountains means avalanches are possible, always.

This year the snow in this part of the Sierra is very deep. Over 50 feet has fallen on the highest parts of the high country since the snow started falling last November. Ski resorts are reporting around that much at their summits. The storms have come in on a regular basis, and so have the avalanches. It’s just plain nuts to ignore the conditions while skiing or riding in the back country.

About two weeks ago a skier on Mt. Tallac heading down The Cross triggered an avalanche that took him 800 feet down slope. According to the Sierra Avalanche Center “A skier triggered avalanche was reported at the trailhead of Mt. Tallac this afternoon.  The avalanche occurred in The Cross, a steep couloir off of the main summit of Mt. Tallac.  The avalanche occurred at 12:30pm.  The main entrance into the Cross had been skied by approximately 8 people at around 11am with some minor loose wet activity observed.  At 12:30pm, a group of 2 skiers went to the top to descend the skiers left entrance, on an east aspect.  As the first skier made several turns into the slope, the slope released a slab avalanche.  The skier was carried approximately 800′ downslope past trees and over rocks with the avalanche debris continuing to run downslope further. Injuries were reported with a broken ski and lost equipment.”

The skier survived, at least as of this writing. He’s lucky. Survival rates aren’t good at all for those caught in avalanches. It’s important to understand that avalanches are largely unpredictable, even with the best and most professional observations of the snow conditions. They aren’t controllable either. Once they start, they simply roar down slope till they run out of energy, mostly taking out anything in their path.

Know before you go, always. Stay safe in this year’s wonderfully snow back country.


Posted in Lake Tahoe, Outdoor Recreation, outside treks, ski resorts, skiing, snow