Look before you leap

Yes, we know it is easy to be wise after the event but off piste and in the back country you really do need to look before you leap. We spotted this avalanche footage over on TetonAT.com and there is lots to notice but we’ll let you take a look at the clip first.

Randall Stacy was enjoying some boarding over at Cathedral (Cerro Catedral) ski resort in Argentina. Notice the snow plumes being pushed off the ridge-line. A sure sign that the bowl is going to be loaded. To the right we see an existing track. Tracks should not be taken as a green light, in fact they can punch down to underlying layers of unstable snow and weaken the snow pack.

As we are taken down the cliff we notice a lot of traps, lift pylons, cliffs etc. I don’t know about Argentinian law but triggering an avalanche that hits skiers and pistes can get you jail time these days in France. However it could be the size of the avalanche that saves Randall’s life, providing a cushion as he is taken over rocks. That and a good dose of luck.

A couple of other things. The slide starts at the base of the rocks. Here the snow-pack is thinner and weaker. The rocks also act as stress concentrators. Looking higher up we see the slide break on a convex part of the slope. Here the snow-pack is under stress and consequently weaker. Still a nice powder bowl like this with an existing track would have been very tempting. Time to get our avalanche eyes focussed.

Posted by davidof on Tuesday, 14 October, 2008 at 11:46 AM

just a thought though: surely in Europe or North America any highly-loaded slope like this that could avalanche onto a lift would have been bombed? that’s quite a high-risk run along the bottom of that slope, and I can’t believe it hasn’t avalanched onto the piste at the bottom before…

Posted by niall on  Monday, 20 October, 2008  at 09:00 PM

Check out the wind - suggests a loaded slope!

Is that Niall - Pomeroy?  If so hope the shoulder is better…

Posted by Chopper on  Saturday, 25 October, 2008  at 12:40 AM
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