Central Oregon Avalanches Happen

4 02 2016


From the Central Oregon Avalanche Association:

Avalanches DO happen in Central Oregon.  Skiers and snowboarders are at risk whenever they enter the backcountry, and with more and more people in the BC, the risks are not just limited to just you and your group.  We suppose it wasn’t long before something like the following incident would occur, and we are bringing it to our community’s attention because we believe that there are important lessons to be learned and talked about.

This last Saturday, an avalanche was triggered on Tumalo Mountain by a single skier cutting between the two cliff bands.  COAA received the following avy observation on its website that Saturday afternoon:

“We observed a slide on Tumalo at approximately 10:00 a.m. on January 30. It was triggered by a skier on the run between the two cliff bands, which has been a repeat offender, especially this year. Crown height was 8-12 inches and it was approximately 60-80 feet wide and ran for approximately 600 vertical feet. It got enough momentum to flow past the terrain trap at the bottom and up onto the bench (where the other skiers in the triggering skier’s party were standing). It appears to have run on a layer within the new storm snow and not on the rain crust from Thursday. Winds were moderate (for us) at 30-40 mph with higher gusts coming from the southwest.

The amount of wind transport was very high. It was snowing lightly. Cornice growth was significant. Later in the day, snowmobilers triggered a smaller slide on Tumalo to the east of the initial slide.”
First and foremost, COAA is relieved that this avalanche did not cause any bodily harm to the three skiers who were caught in the runout.  But stepping back, COAA believes that this event offers several points of discussion that perhaps the Central Oregon backcountry community might consider:

1.  With 2 partial burial events on Tumalo in the last 2 years, we believe that it is safe to finally dispel the notion that “Tumalo doesn’t slide”.   Mountain systems are complex, ever-changing environments.  Things happen.  Tumalo slides.

2.  We cannot forget that there are never any guarantees in the backcountry, and the need for a heightened sense of alertness and risk management becomes even more poignant in this type of situation.  Both the skier above and the skiers below might have benefited from considering alternate options in their decision making.  The human factor is one of the most challenging to control.

3.  With skiers and gear buried up to their waists, it’s a very good reminder that the physical consequences of avalanches can impact you in many aspects.  Consider what would have happened if, for example, one of the party below was fully buried and all the backpacks/shovels/probes were also fully buried, having been taken off to prep for the uphill.

Learn what you need to know!

Central Oregon Avalanche Assoc.

REI Avalanche Awareness Feb 16- FREE

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