CSAC Avalanche Incident

Alpine Meadows - February 9, 1998

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Date: 2-8-98br Time: 12:15br Location: Alpine Meadows, CA Our Father Chute (in-bounds)br Avalanche Size: 150' x 50' ran for 300 feetbr Elevation: 8,000'br Aspect: NEbr Incline: 25 degreesbr Type: Slabbr Width: 150'br Thickness: 25"br Water: Moistbr Avalanche Trigger: Snowboarderbr Activity: Skiers, Snowboardersbr Party Size: 4+br People Caught: 2br Partial Burials: 0br Complete Burials: 2br Injured: 0br Fatalities: 0br

Comments = Alpine Bowl had received 30" plus in a 24 hour period from Saturday 2/7 to Sunday 2/8. On Sunday afternoon I traversed into the previously bombed and well-tracked upper portion of Our Father, serviced by the Alpine Bowl Chair. Three of us went to ski the trees to the far skiers' right of the chute, out of the main slide zone. As soon as I stopped in the middle of the chute to look for lines, I knew that it was a bad place to be, yet I stayed there and suffered for not obeying my instincts.

Above the chute, perhaps 50 yards straight up the chute, the slope ended at a 25' wall of cliffs, on top of which a number of snowboarders were standing, waiting to launch into the chute bewlow. Bombs had set off most of the chute, but the top section, perhaps 150 x 50 feet or so had not slid. There was a distinct crown 25-30" at the bottom of this section.

Another snowboarder was caught in the slide, though I am not sure whether he started it or not. he went for a longer ride, but was fine. I was standing dead center below the fresh snow, one friend 15 feet or so ahead on the same level, the other 15 feet behind on the same level.

I knew I should move, so I looked for my line and was about to ski when one of the snowboarders launched the cliff, landed directly in the start zone. I heard someone yell and looked up to see the entire slope beneath the cliffs fracture and start sliding directly toward me. At first it looked like a small sluff, but it gained size and momentum quickly.

A large cloud of powder rose as the slide approached. It traveled about 50 feet before it hit me. I watched it come, preferring to take my chances riding it rather than turning and trying to ski out to the side. It was moving too quickly to try and beat it from a dead stop.

At first it looked like I might be able to stand my ground and let it pass around, but as it grew closer I relized that it was big and moving fast.

As it hit I jumped up into the air and backwards, up hill, so that my feet were knocked from out beneath me and I stayed on top initially.

After I fell, I was quickly engulfed, beneath the snow, legs downhill, head uphill, riding within the slide on my right side, head facing up. Throughout I could always see a circle of light through the snow and was properly oriented.

At one point I started to flip, but I dragged my arms and managed to stay on my side, within the top 6-8 inches on snow.

When the slide stopped on its own, I could still see light through the snow and immediately popped my hands through, then my head. I got out easily, looked around for my friends and didn't see either. Nothing but the slide path, which had taken me about 200 feet down the chute.

My first reaction was to yell out for my friends (I knew I was ok). We weren't wearing beacons or shovels. I only had probe poles and knew it was not a good scene. Fortunately, they answered from either side. One had managed to ski out of the way to skiers' right, she was completely out of the slide zone. The other had retreated behind a large tree and was buried to the waist, but fine.