Snow and Avalanche Center 2009 Avalanche News

Man triggers, outruns avalanche
Felicity Wolfe on Wed, 5 Aug 2009

New Zealand snowboarder Sam Deavoll caused, and then outran, an avalanche on the Remarkables two weeks ago, and does not want to repeat the experience. He has since told friends to take more care when heading out to back-country snow. He has been telling all his mates he was an example of "what not to do" in the mountains after triggering and outrunning an avalanche on Coronet Peak two weeks ago.

It was not until he was at the bottom of a fast smooth run ending on frozen Lake Alta that Mr Deavoll looked back and saw "the hillside had come down behind me". "Then I felt the ice start to crack and move," he said.

He managed to get off the lake before the weight of the fallen snow and ice broke through the surface but was left shaken by the close call in an area he had long considered his "playground".

A regular at the Remarkables Ski Area, Mr Deavoll said he had been to the area, known as "The Chutes", many times before. None of his group gave any thought to avalanche risks.

Despite signs posted on the main ski area, Mr Deavoll said they did not see them.

"That's the main thing I have been telling my friends, where to check for the avalanche risks and find out about them," he said. "When you're in that kind of area you should know what to do, what the environment is like and what to take with you," he said. From now on, if he is looking to go outside the safety of the patrolled ski area, he will check conditions thoroughly first and carry equipment.

Mr Deavoll owns a transceiver, but did not have it with him when he went out of bounds. "I have been on fields in Japan and Europe where they won't let you ride without them but we don't tend to think of them here," he said.

"Maybe we should be more aware."


Angle: Most occur on slopes with gradients of 30deg to 45deg, but be wary of exceptions. Thick snow does not tend to accumulate on slopes steeper than 50deg.

Aspect: Wind moves snow around easily, often piling it on lee slopes and making them more dangerous. Wind-drifting adds huge weights and pressure. Risks increase if it is still windy after storms and new snow.

Altitude: There is usually more snow and more wind at higher elevations, and the increased cold can cause the snow pack to bond together more slowly.

Appearance: Convex and concave slopes are features that can help you recognise avalanche terrain.

Anchoring: If rocks are still showing, these help anchor the snow. Once these are covered and the "threshold" depth is reached, the risk increases. .

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