whumpfing and other signs of instability at SFSA Today

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whumpfing and other signs of instability at SFSA Today

Postby anon » Tue Dec 16, 2008 7:53 pm

hey all.

a group of four of us toured on the upper mtn of sfsa today (tuesday). We had some great skiing and some interesting observations...I thought I'd share.

We didn't dig a pit, but we had about 2' of new snow on the older layer beneath. The new snow from the last 48 hours was very reactive on any even slightly loaded slopes. We skied Molly/Burro, staying in the trees (Stooges?) for the steeper roller. Great skiing conditions (over the head blower) and on these upper shots we experienced no whumpfing or other signs of instability.

We crossed below easter bowl (luge) below patrol getting ready to ski cut :shock:. back over to the top of Avalanche Bowl. We then decided to proceed to where Avy Bowl rolls over one at a time. When the fourth skier arrived to our safe spot above the roll-over the entire slope dropped maybe 6" and the whumpfing made a pit in our stomachs as the layers beneath failed under our combined weight. As far as we could see down the trail (about 250'?) the soft slab (new snow) was buckled up. crazy looking.

If we had been on steeper terrain I have no doubt the slope would have released The fracture propogated into the trees towards DE-5, I don't know how far. We shuffled into the trees skiers R, and booted (wallowed) back up to Road Runner where we made our way safely down the lower angle terrain.

Pretty scary. Definitely the most significant whumpf I've ever experienced. The area of snow that shifted was at least wall-to-wall on Avy Bowl and at least 250' down. We wanted to skin back up below to see if it released below the roller where we couldn't see, but time didn't allow.

Be careful. Like I said we didn't dig any pits (so I didn't file this under the "reports"). I'm not sure if there are any persistent weak layers, but (to me) the instability we experienced today appeared to be the unconsolidated, new (and appreciated!) snow.

I'll be at TSV on Thurs if anyone wants to ski. Usually touring once or twice a week also around SF if anyone wants to go.

praise Ullr!
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Postby Bob » Tue Dec 16, 2008 8:25 pm

Heh, small world. I was one of the patrollers you crossed paths with. We spoke with you about your whumphing.

We went farther down Avalanche Bowl than you guys did right after you left, and what you didn't see was kind of amazing - the lower third-to-half of the bowl slid all the way across with a two foot crown. It was pretty startling. At the time, we couldn't tell if you guys set it off or if it was natural, but reading your report it sounds like you triggered it. It was a soft slab for sure and ran about 150 vertical feet all the way to the bottom of the bowl.

We sidled on over to Glad-Happy trees (skiers right, where you climbed out) and tip-toed out.

Oddly, we didn't get anything going with ski cuts in Easter Bowl or in Ivan's, though we didn't go too far down Ivan's. We did a couple of hasty pits and it looked like the new snow was probably forming a soft slab in open areas. Caution is called for.

I bet Stooges was great. We had some really nice skiing in First Trax.
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Postby anon » Tue Dec 16, 2008 8:50 pm

bob (meadowskipper of tgr fame?)

I'm sure that would've been us that trigered the lower slide, we thought it had slid down at the second half, but wasn't sure from our vantage.

This guy we were with (jasper) stated "thats the closest i've ever been to being in an avalanche without being in an avalanche".

i'd say that's pretty much all of our feeling. scare-eeee.
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Postby Bob » Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:25 pm

anon wrote:bob (meadowskipper of tgr fame?)

8)

anon wrote: scare-eeee.

I'm getting a little case of the heebie-jeebies this year about avies. The recent deaths in Utah and Colorado have me feeling a little vulnerable.

I've been thinking a lot about how you guys came up under us in Easter Bowl today as we were fixing to get to work.
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Postby anon » Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:30 pm

yeah. i was thinking about that too. thanks for not dropping a whole buncha snow on us. Had we seen you before I was already out in the bowl we would've waited for you to finish your work. Funny too, as right before I scooted out I was staring up at that in-the-trees huck on the skiers R side of Easter Bowl and didn't see you guys.

i know what you mean about the heebie-jeebies.

between the girl at Snowbird and the 'troller in Aspen (plus some other close calls on tgr) there has been alot of action for early in the winter.
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Postby Bob » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:08 pm

anon wrote:thanks for not dropping a whole buncha snow on us.

I wouldn't dream of it. Anyway, the paperwork would have been horrendous.
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Postby Bob » Wed Dec 17, 2008 8:08 pm

I experienced more whumphing today (12/17) in the Desperado trees. The guy I was skiing with started a run and we got a drop of 4-5 inches. Startling.

Some definite signs of instability on the steeper slopes. The patrol director got some photos of the Avalanche Bowl slide, I'll see if I can get one to put up.

Also: http://www.nnmae.org/cgi-bin/sprec.cgi?sprecid=96
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Aspen Avalanche photos

Postby JohnS » Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:07 pm

Check out the photos of the Aspen Avalanche last weekend. This looks very similar to Santa Fe inbound terrain. How many of us have skied this kind of terran will little thought. Scary of what can slide.

http://avalanche.state.co.us/pub/accidents_co.php?accident=20081214_aspen
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Postby Jasper » Thu Dec 18, 2008 11:08 pm

Interesting conditions up there at the ski area, but none the less some really nice creamy skiing. I first skied Avalanche Bowl this year on Monday the 15th. I did it with caution, as I recognized its potential. I was inspiered to ski it because of an image in my head of three tracks going down it from a few days before. It looked great. But once I thought about it none of my runs on the precceding days took me with in view of this slope. Maybe it came to me in a dream. None the less I decided to go for it; after ski cuts and my first commited turn to the run, near the trees on skiers left side, I saw a crack shot across the slope out of the corner of my eye. My instinct told me to accelerate on out of there so I pointed it. I only got about two turns before hitting the bottom, kicker roll over, and boy were the epic. My first white room of the year. Fortunetly it didnt slide but as I looked back up at my tracks I could see that fine line reaching across the top of the bowl, just were it broke the following day.

On tuesday after making some nice turns in the Burro Molly area, I do feel a bit foolish for crossing under Easter Bowl. I hate doing that, and typically like to only enter avalanche areas with my skis on my feet pointing down hill, not up, from the VERY TOP of the danger zone. I feel it is incredibly dangerous to cross below avalanche terrain or enter it from the sides. I think it is good that we crossed Easter one at a time, and I feel incredibly lucky we wern't there a second later. Thanks, for spoting us Bob! I will do my best to avoid that type of mistake again. Though Avalanche Bowl turned out to be a bad spot to be, I am glad we attempted to ski it in the manner we did. Working our way into it, using a safe spot, and stressing the slope before being commited. Feeling that snow settle, seeing those cracks and buckles, and imaging what probably went on down at the big roll over was another exciting and even more eye opening learning experience for me. Im so grateful that everyone made it out safely that day. I went on to get some more skiing over in BR Columbine area, had some great turns and on huge settling of snow at the bottom of Big Rocks and Pope Snows in the flats.

I was thinking that there should be AVALANCHE DANGER warning signs for any hikers who may be less aware of the dangers on the upper mountain, until it is open. I also think that all avalanche areas within Santa Fe Ski Area should be clearly marked as Avalanche Areas throughout the year. People should be aware!

Bob, were you guys setting up ropes around Ivan's and Benny's at abut 3:00 or 3:30 on Tuesday the day of the avalanche?

Let's hope these dangers cycle through and the snow keeps piling up! So we can get out, do some laundry, fluff some pillows, and plow some powder fields!
Go when the going is good.
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Postby Bob » Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:16 am

Jasper wrote:Bob, were you guys setting up ropes around Ivan's and Benny's at abut 3:00 or 3:30 on Tuesday the day of the avalanche?

Yep, I'm the guy with the gray mustache.

I was working on slat fences on Burro today (12/18 ) and it was snowing hard and the wind was howling. Pretty classic conditions for hard slab formation. Please be careful people.

Edit: Nice snow reports, thanks:
http://www.nnmae.org/cgi-bin/spindex.cgi
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Re: Aspen Avalanche photos

Postby mark » Fri Dec 19, 2008 3:35 pm

JohnS wrote:Check out the photos of the Aspen Avalanche last weekend. This looks very similar to Santa Fe inbound terrain. How many of us have skied this kind of terran will little thought. Scary of what can slide.


This creeps me out. I don't think many people (myself included) stop skiing above gladed terrain and think, "That has serious slide potential. I need to strategize a bit."
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Postby mark » Fri Dec 19, 2008 3:37 pm

Bob wrote:Yep, I'm the guy with the gray mustache.


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:shock:
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small road side slide

Postby JohnS » Fri Dec 19, 2008 4:31 pm

Saw this rather insigificate roadside slide about 1 mile below Big T campground on the way up to SF ski area today (dec 19). Bob probably saw it. But another sign of the snowpack. It was a NE facing slope.

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NW

Postby JohnS » Fri Dec 19, 2008 4:36 pm

correction, NW facing slope.
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Re: small road side slide

Postby Bob » Fri Dec 19, 2008 10:09 pm

JohnS wrote:Saw this rather insigificate roadside slide about 1 mile below Big T campground on the way up to SF ski area today (dec 19). Bob probably saw it.

It's been dark when I've been driving down in the evening (and up in the morning too. That looks pretty fresh.

And mark - that's a pretty old picture - I haven't looked that good in years.
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