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Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:31 pm
by sody
Wow, skiing Nambe after that last 3 storms is a bold decision. As far as I am aware, there has only been one avalanche death in NM (Williams Lake basin) up to date. But seeing the explosion of uphill travel at the SF ski area the last two years, I would not be surprised to have a major accident happening in the future. Everyone stay safe out there!

He could have skied Acheron or Charon (see summitpost/bmg image) which is not visible from Deception peak.

Anyone interested in investigating the avalanche Friday? My plan was to ski Sandia if the road is open, but with this incident, I am happy to come up and take a look. Call or txt if interested: five-0-five-eight-0-three-seven-four-six-five

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 9:57 pm
by Jasper
In an effort to promote reporting of avalanches let us judge not.

I was home for a couple of days, and I was fortunate enough to catch the Jan 1 powder at Ski Santa Fe. I will say that I really really really wanted to go and look into Nambé on the 1st. I did not go because I could not find a partner who was outfitted with proper equipment. Consequently I leaned to the safer side of my margin, at least in terms of avalanche risk, by subjecting myself to a day of lift served skiing. Because I wanted to go see Nambé doesn't mean I would of skied it. I would have used my time to minimize my confidence/uncertainty balance which may or may not have involved triggering an avalanche. I am not sure what this person's plans were, but I am happy they made it home, and I don't fault them for exploring.

If anyone has an opportunity let's learn more about this event. Was the avalanche intentionally triggered or not? Did it slide on the ground or the interface between old and new snow? How big was it; D-scale and/or approximate dimensions? Was it above treeline or below treeline?

I fully agree that backcountry skiing in New Mexico is ripe for a accident due to the continental snowpack, abundance of terrain traps, and increased users. There have been four avalanche fatalities recorded in New Mexico, all in Taos, in the years 1973 1979 1980 1996. At least one occurred in bounds, outside of ski area operating hours/season, on West Blitz I believe. One was a solo skier out of bounds, and I think in the Peace Sign Chute. I can provide newspaper articles if anybody is interested.

In an effort to keep NM avalanche fatalities at 4 I encourage everybody to report observations and notable events, and engage other parties in conversation, especially if they appear to lack an understanding of the hazard.

New Mexico is at a disadvantage due to its lack of a avalanche forecast. Avalanche Canada has developed a tool for recreational users to determine North American Public Avalanche Danger Scale rating when a professional forecast does not exist. Use of the tool is based on a having taken a Canadian Avalanche Skills Training 1 Course, our closest equivalent being a Recreational Level 1.

Would people be interested in learning about this tool? What does the North American Public Avalanche Danger Scale mean to New Mexican users?

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 10:33 pm
by sody

thank you for educating us about the avalanche fatalities. I am definitely interested in the history.

My post may have been come across as judging after rereading it again. I didn't mean to, more like describing that I would have not done it within my own personal limits. Learning from past experiences is always my goal. I personally experienced a situation in which cognitive biases (key word in avalanche: FACETS) caused me to be in a really bad situation. With that experience I also realized that we are all humans and we all make mistakes at some point in life. I usually don't judge others people decisions. I may just have a problem expressing my thoughts correctly.

I will try to capture as many data as I can tomorrow and report it here (I found a partner). Thanks for the pointers what to actually look for!

I think Jbella here is providing really good information for everyone skiing around Taos ski valley. (Great Job!!). Taos avalanche center tried to set something up, but probably had to shut down due to funding. Besides the disadvantage you described, I think there are also less people here and hence much less resources available. It would be good to know how many people actually check this site. Only a few people post regularly, not sure how many actually read it. I think it will be a really good idea to give us more info about this tool you are describing (in a separate post).

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 10:57 am
by jpurcellrd

"engage other parties in conversation". I have difficulty with this. First because I am not an avalanche expert or the police. Second because perhaps he knew that he was taking a risk and did it anyways. I don't believe I should educate or argue with a particular person where they should or shouldn't ski. I have certainly made decisions that I knew weren't the safest, but I did it anyways.

I agree we shouldn't be judging observations or avalanche reports. It's important to get as much information out here and each individual can apply that information to his/her decisions.

Also, I am fairly new to the area, but I do not see a lot of avalanche awareness at the ski area. It would be nice if there were some avalanche classes. I know it is not the responsibility of the ski area, but it is a common meeting area, and platform. I am also aware that there are some classes in Taos, but it would be nice to see the culture grow here..... if possible. I have had trouble recruiting partners to go out of bounds here. Maybe because you have to put more work in to get the turns around here. I see a lot of people skining at the ski area, but I don't know if they go out of bounds. Or maybe we should keep it a secret....after skiing Heaven's Hill I don't want the word getting out!!!! So much fun!!!!

I am not trying to be confrontational here and I appreciate this discussion.

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 5:13 pm
by sody
Ventured up to deception to see what we find. My partner did not feel comfortable skiing down (skiing ability) so we never made it into the basin (and i needed the vertical for my training hence we didn't skin into the basin via windsor). But here are the pictures from what we found:

Boot out chute avalanche: R1 D1 , less than 20-30cm of crown, maybe 30m width, didn't run very far and left the small trees standing. looked like a storm/soft slab that broke just below the rocks and slid on the old snow surface. Skin tracks up higher, coming out of the debris field. Due to wind, hard to say what the trigger was, but it looked like maybe a remote trigger. We dug a pit on the chute entrance just below Deception (north aspect, above tree line). Snow depth about 115cm, 4 noticeable layers with a 30-40 cm wind slap on top, that buried the new storm snow (approx. 20cm thick). That was sitting on another stiffer (I assume wind) slab (20cm) and the rest 30-45cm was old snow that showed signs of faceting, (grain size was 1-2mm). Due to time limitations we only did a quick compression test test had a complete shear between top wind slab and storm layer after after 15 taps. After another 5 taps (total 20, the lower interface broke, but not a complete shear. (Sorry, I don't have a snow profile software on my new computer yet, I will post as soon as I have it back working)

Avalanche on the Apron of Charon: R2 D2, were not able to see the crown, but my suspicion is that it broke below the trees (see image here N-3/4 area). Definitely could see the flanks, 30-60 cm my estimation. We don't have a representative snow pit, so hard to say how deep it broke. Snow depth above the slide in the trees on top only measured 65cm. But those slab pieces looked pretty big (see picture). I saw tracks coming up from the debries field (looked like a boot pack, but not 100% sure, no other signs of skier entering or exiting on top of the ridge anywhere. This one looks like it could mess up someones day pretty good.

We also observed a skin track and ski tracks in the trees across the basin that leads up to the saddle between heaven's hill and lake peak. Mostly the tracks are blown in again. Hard to say how old.

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:23 pm
by sody
Another report of skier triggered avalanche in Nambe. Happened yesterday midday. No injuries. Talked to one of the people involved. He has pictures and i encouraged him to report here.

Today, did one lap in the ski area starting 0730. Freezing rain all the way to the hikers hut. Icy conditions on the runs we went on. This may add another problem (ice crust) to our snow pack in the backcountry. Be careful out there!

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:12 pm
by BCSkiBum2017
Remote Triggered Large Soft Snow Slide

Hey NM BC Skiers, it’s been 2 years since I’ve been in Nambe Chutes and 2 years since posing here.
Saturday the 5th 2 partners and I went up with all equipment from ski area looking to explore options in Nambe. Conditions were still as Sody mentioned in the previous post. We dug a quick pit in the main chute under deception and we judged the layers mentioned as stable so we dropped in. Snow was variable but solid all the way down.

On our second skin up the NW low angle terrain under Lake Peak, just as we were at the top of the pictured skin tracks, I looked above us and saw the snow release. I yelled and turned to ski out of it but with my skins still on I was too slow and suddenly everything around me was moving and I was down. I managed to keep my skis pointed down hill and kind of swam around the 2 small trees I was getting swept into. My 2 other partners were also swept into it and one pulled his airbag and I heard it hissing as they were both passing me in the main part of the slide. Scary stuff.

When everything stopped I saw my 2 partners up and safe below me at the foot of the slide, long ride for them. I was on top with only one leg and ski under the snow. After checking for hang fire I briefly started looking for my partners ski and pole which was gone. No luck, it’s still up there so please PM me if you find it before we get out there in April.

Assessment & Lessons Learned:
1) Angle was about 35 deg. above us where it triggered but we were probably on a 30 deg. slope
2) We got too close together as we stopped skinning and talked about what lines we were going to ski, hence all 3 of us were caught. Not Ok.
3) We should have become more cautious as the wind died and the temp. increased. I believe this extra warmth increased the density of the snowpack enough to set this all up. There’s no way of really knowing but I think if it remained cold this slide would not have triggered.

There was another party of 6 watching everything and after we got over to them I convinced everyone we should all skin out to Windsor. We had a LONG hike out with one member having only one ski in VERY deep snow before getting to Windsor.

BC TIP: We made a snow shoe out of 2 small pine tree tops strapped to his boot. This setup created enough float to ski and walk out, although it took about 4 long hours…..

I’ll thank everyone now for constructive comments only and not judging….. I have literally NOT dropped into Nambe more times than I HAVE over the last 10 years I have skied there. In my opinion we must all make these objective risk decisions on an individual basis every time we are in the back country. Please consider the big picture every time you venture out. The mountains will always be there for the next adventure.

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Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:33 pm
by Bob
Dude, I want to recognize and applaud you for posting that. The goal of nnmae is to share and advance knowledge. Your willingness to come forward about your experience in the Nambé might just save lives and limbs. Thanks.

I just hope this season doesn’t bring any tragedies in the NM bc. There seems to be potential. Today’s warm/wet storm in the Santa Fe area doesn’t give me a lot of confidence.

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:59 pm
by aaron4peace
Sunday 6th, 2019. A test pit was located on the north face of Ravens Ridge just on teh edge of the treeline and an open bowl, as safe as we could be to get a good representative pit. Basically, the top 20" thick layer of well consolidated new snow sits on top of a plane that overlies 3' of very faceted rotten snow. Strong temp gradient here is suspected culprit. There is extremely poor bonding between these layers and failure along this plane at a compression test of "Zero"!!!!

We ran into the party of 3 that included BCSkiBum2017 at the top of the Main Nambe Chute as they were about to ski in. We told them what we had seen (above) and to be careful. We decided to watch them as they entered the chute anyhow just to make sure they didn't trigger and get caught. They didn't, so off we went, to return another day with safer conditions. Apparently we should have stayed longer. So glad noone was hurt.

I have a video of the it test, but cant upload .mov file so will try to convert it and try again.

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:24 pm
by Bob
Aaron, you might have to load your video to YouTube or Vimeo and link it here. I don’t think the forum software supports video directly.

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:06 pm
by Jasper
Wow lots going on in Santa Fe.

Sody, thanks for the recon of the 20180102 avalanches. I will try to get those old newspaper articles posted soon.

jpurcellrd, I agree that there is a large lack of avalanche awareness in Santa Fe. I also do not want to police people. When I encourage 'engage others in conversation' I want to promote awareness, and not tell people how they should behave. Here is a relevant article from a few years ago about talking to unaware backcountry users.

BCskibum2017, Thank you for reporting and I am glad you are ok.

My biggest recommendation for people traveling in Nambé on skis is that essentially all slopes exiting the drainage, until about 1/4 mile from the Windsor Trail, are steep enough to produce avalanches. Consequently I do not climb these slopes. Exposure to avalanches is both spatial and temporal. If you choose to expose yourself to avalanches, you can minimize your time of exposure by quickly descending avalanche terrain on skis (or snowboard), but ascending avalanche terrain by any means will maximize your temporal exposure. I am attaching a map from [url][/url] that shows slope angle shading. Yellow is 27-29° orange increasing to red is 30-45° purple is 46-50°. As you can see most all ascent routes involve exposure to avalanches. I have also drawn a line of a potential exit downstream of all the avalanche terrain. This exit track is known to my friends and me as the Bobcat Track. Several years ago bobcat footprints were common there. It is beautiful and offers a great view back at Lake Peak. Use with your own caution.

Who is familiar with caltopo? it is an incredible resource. Go play with it!

I am interested in organizing a avalanche awareness talk in Santa Fe. Maybe in February. Who is interested in attending?

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:58 pm
by rittersam
I was in Aaron's group on Saturday and watched BCSki and folks ski in. I too am so glad nobody was hurt. Thanks for posting BCSki.

I would certainly be interested in attending an avalanche awareness talk, Jasper.

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 12:08 am
by danshorb
This year is different then the ones I've seen here and this accident is a reminder of that. Particularly, the warmth and loading of this storm on top of what weve gotten over the past month... at a minimum it's more snowpack to think about than the past several years, and it was interacting with a warm storm. I appreciate Bob's take that this year is one to watch. That coming from Bob who has seen decades of winters here, I will be diligently taking notes of broad trends as well as pits.
Thanks again for keeping the community up to date with your accident.

My wife and I had determined from a far that conditions in both the San Juans, and Sangres would be deemed, Considerable Danger, and did not venture out. The fatality on Red Mountain Pass was also unfortunate. Glad everyone in this scenario lived and came away unscathed.

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 9:49 am
by jpurcellrd
I am really glad that everyone is o.k.!!!

Although I haven't skied Nambe yet it looks really complex. I think I may leave it for spring time!

I would attend an avalanche awareness session (depending on the dates of course). If nothing else this could get like minded folks together!

I know that this isn't the correct thread, but signage at the ski hill would probably be a good thing too. When I lived in AK there were multiple fatalities in Hatchers pass. Couple organizations put up a "are you beeping" billboard which detects beacons at the parking lot. I don't think that Ski Santa Fe needs something this elaborate, but some signs going up to deception or on the winsor about potential avalanche could save someone's life. IDk

Maybe at the avy awareness session we could have a donation bin for signage. Just brain storming here.

Re: Santa Fe & Nambe

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:38 am
by sody
I personally don't think it is the ski area's responsibility to warn about hazards outside the ski area. But where would one put the sign? there are multiple ways to get to the top of Deception: raven's ridge, top of Millennium lift, from the hikers hut. Also one can approach Nambe basin from Windsor. May need more thought.

For the avalanche awareness talk, I would highly recommend contact Atalaya SAR and Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council and SF ski patrol to check if they want to be part of this. Both ASAR and AMRC had a joint avalanche rescue training this weekend at Bit T campground area. These two teams will probably be the resources called for an accident in that area if needed and may be happy to support a PSAR type awareness talk.