Death by Snow

The NY Times has one of the most beautiful HTML5 web articles to date, Snow Fall.

Beyond the shine, the story is about a group of skiiers getting avalaunched on a gully on the back side of Steven's Canyon ski resort in the Cascades. The Cascades being famed and treasured for the large volumes of (heavy) snow that it can get dumped on in a 24 hour period -a metre a day for a number of days in a row sometimes.

In the story, a group of skiers went down the "tunnel creek" after fresh snowfall onto that from two weeks previously.
By morning, there would be 32 inches of fresh snow at Stevens Pass, 21 of them in a 24-hour period of Saturday and Saturday night.
That was cause for celebration. It had been more than two weeks since the last decent snowfall. Finally, the tired layer of hard, crusty snow was gone, buried deep under powder.
Given  that you know this a new article where the outcome is not good, you can look at that say "about a metre of fresh snow on a layer which would have frozen together on the surface over the previous two weeks", and immediately conclude what's going to happen: that fresh snow isn't going to bond to the previous layer, creating a shear point that's just waiting to trigger.


That doesn't make the rest of the story any better -it's a brutal documentary of what happens when snow does what it often does after a big snowfall: slides down the mountain.

Off piste skiing isn't skiing, it's winter/spring mountaineering with skis on. Skis that give you speed, but also bias you towards going on the snowy areas, not the rocky bits. Usually it can be great fun -but it puts you right where avalanches happen.

This article is awful for anyone to read -but if you've been into winter and/or ski mountaineering it's worse: its a documentary of what's happened to friends of yours, and what could happen to you.

[photo, ski randonne work in Belledone Range, French Alps, 1994? Skis: Volkl. Camera Canon. Film and Paper: Ilford ]

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