Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
We were up backcountry skiing today near Marble, Colorado and had an interesting time. Over the past few days we’d seen quite a few people skiing what we call “Alley,” and figured since things were somewhat stable we’d perhaps head up there as well. Before skiing we took our usual drive up to an observation point we like, and looked for any sign of slide activity. Zilch. We then drove down to parking at Ally. When I got out of the truck I looked up at the route and spied a fracture line where none had been five minutes before!
We’d seen at least six people headed up Alley so we immediately went into possible emergency mode. Drove back up the observation point and got out the binoculars and the ham radio. Ready for anything. It soon became obvious that no one had taken a ride, though a dog might have gotten a thrill. This avalanche appeared to be wind loaded snow on top of a lightly sun slicked surface, or else the sliding surface was hoar frost. Would have liked to look at the slide profile but needless to say we turned tail and skied the trees over on Marble Peak. If anyone who was up there sees this blog, please leave a comment and let us know the story.
This was not a large avalanche, but could have hurt someone. It’s interesting to see such a slide in Colorado, where our snowpack is usually so crummy that any avalanche steps down to the ground and moves massive amounts of snow. Such slides usually result in killer avalanches that offer little to no hope of survival. It’s testimony to the excellent snowpack we’ve got in the Marble area that this avalanche only involved a thin surface layer and didn’t run full path. Our snow pit today told the story. Super solid all the way to the ground. With, yes, a less bonded layer as icing on the cake.