By now you have most likely heard about the unnerving Avalanche conditions around Eastern BC and the Rockies. This is not just a huge pain for back country skiers but Resorts as well. And no resort is more testing than Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Thank god for the trusty Ski Patrol.
Sunday, March 19, 2017 marked a massive day of avalanche activity in the Golden area. After days of warm weather and 115cm of fresh snow, slopes were primed and ready to rip. Crowds of powder hungry guests patiently waited through a late gondola opening as massive Avalanche Control was undertaken by the ladies and gentlemen in the orange jackets to ensure the slopes were safe before anyone touched the mountain.
And results were a-plenty! The November rain crust woke up and let go. First thing, heli-bombing produced a remarkable size 3 off the east aspect of Terminator Ridge which ran halfway down the closed Terminator run. More heli-bombing on the south face of Ozone produced another size 3. Then came the real shocker. The massive disturbance of the Ozone slide sympathetically triggered the deep instability at the bottom of the snowpack in Feuz Bowl causing it to rip out from the uppermost runs in Feuz all the way to the Gun Towers with a crown of 1.5 meters. This terrain had been boot packed in November to break up the continuity of the crust, and was promptly opened then heavily skied since December 10th. This prep work kept things stable all year, however, the recent conditions were too much to handle after the massive shock from the Ozone slide. Thankfully all protocol kept patrollers and everyone else on the mountain out of harm’s way.
Looking into the debris was like watching the carnage of a car wreck. Bare slopes and massive debris have left the slope un-skiable for the time being. Beyond the resort boundary, a large avalanche was visible on the western end of South Rudi’s reminding you that the danger is everywhere.
Based on the extreme and unprecedented nature of the result and therefore lack of confidence in the rest of the similar terrain the decision was made to keep everything else closed until patrol was able to safety do more testing and regain confidence in the skier compacted terrain. This arrived after sweep with another round of heli bombing in previously open terrain. Sixteen large explosives were dropped out the door with no notable results in the open terrain. This allowed the confidence to increase again and begin working to open terrain the following day (ed note. Lower Feuz opened today and it was the best skiing of the year).
This late afternoon bombing did create a few spectacles out of bounds. Bombs dropped on Ruby’s Ramp (inbounds) on the ski out of Super Bowl remotely triggered a massive slide on T2.5, just outside the resort, which many people saw from town.
David Ratzlaff’s video of the T2.5 slide that he heard from town and managed to capture on camera.
Further results were had on what is known as the Darwin’s, lookers right of the massive Ozone slide. This sympathetically triggered the north side of Mini-Ridge and a large portion of North Ozone to release.
Many of these results are predictable but some of them are surprising even the most weathered local. Basically, it’s scary out there. Remember, take it easy in the backcountry (or stay away for a while) and thank your local ski patroller. When it’s a big powder day and you’re getting antsy about trenching some schnee, take a deep breathe, chill out and appreciate the patrol looking out for you every morning and respect their closures. Then, support their cause by buying a ticket to their annual fundraiser, Hung Like a Horse on April 16th. The $10 tickets go to a good cause and you’re only risk is an avalanche of positive emotions.
Www.skiinggolden.com filling you in with all you need to know about what’s happening out there.