Avalanche Weather January 23 2008
Think of the back country as a series of huge mouse (or Rat :)) traps. Slide out onto a large smooth surface of white, creamy cheese and after a few sweet turns you hear a pop. Your world breaks into large, bone crushing, unpalatable blocks; a second later you are jumping for the bigger blocks as you attempt to ski down and out. A split second after that your world becomes white and engulfed. Survival at that point is just luck. This winter has created many of these slab traps on all slope aspects here in the central Rocky Mountains. Back country travel is much more dangerous than usual and will continue to be dangerous into the spring. We subscribe to http://avalanche.state.co.us/Forecasts/Vail+Summit+Co/ avalanche forecasts and recommend that everyone support this project. UpSkiers, as have many back country skiers and boarders, been involved with near-misses. One a bunch of years ago, in the early days of the CAIC is discussed at the UpSki Website here . UpSkiers have trigger slides while ascending slopes but that is more rare than upon descent, the wind is supporting much of your weight on the way up and if you are lucky enough to trigger the slide close to your position then it is likely you will be lifted above the fracture line. The danger with UpSki is that you get to the top of the mountain and realize that you don't have a safe route down. More than once we have walked back down a rocky ridgeline after realizing while ascending that we didn't belong there. UpSkiers have to consider that they are moving up and across slope at speeds which don't give them much time to gather data. Sometimes we "hover" on the edge of the slope with our weight in the harness, canopy partly vented, and use our ski poles to check snow conditions. The best plan is to just avoid pockets of "considerable" danger, stay on the ridgeline and consider the fact that descending will be required.