Avalanche is Whiteface’s second this winter
WILMINGTON - Whiteface Mountain had its second avalanche of the season earlier this week when a large slab of snow let loose above the Slides.
Whiteface Mountain Ski Center officials said this most recent avalanche occurred Tuesday morning and was triggered by one or more skiers who entered the Slides area from Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway. The Slides are a backcountry area of the mountain not accessible by chairlifts, although they can be accessed via a traverse from the top of the summit chairlift.
But these skiers didn't come from the ski area, Whiteface General Manager Bruce McCulley said. "They came from the highway."
The avalanche was about 30 yards wide, 22 inches deep and slid roughly 150 yards, said ski patroller Matt Levenson, who performs avalanche testing at the ski resort.
Levenson said Whiteface officials didn't talk to anyone involved with triggering the avalanche, but they believe no one was hurt.
The avalanche was a product of a number of factors, among them the snowstorm that dumped 30 inches of new snow on Sunday and Monday, Levenson said.
"We've had a considerable amount of snow this year without any melting, so the snowpack is deeper than we've had in a lot of years," Levenson said.
Since the avalanche, Levenson and other patrollers have gone up to the site to do assessments.
"We went and made sure that areas on either side of it were stable and weren't going to avalanche down," Levenson said. "We found the bed surface that it slid down on, which was a freezing-rain event that we had about two weeks ago. That was a very hard, icy surface."
A previous avalanche occurred at Whiteface Mountain on Feb. 26 within Slide 1, which is the slide to the far left when looking up the mountain. That one was triggered by a skier and ran about a quarter-mile. No one was injured in that incident, either.
Levenson said he's aware of about five avalanches that have occurred at Whiteface in the past decade.
Avalanches in the Adirondacks are considered rare events, but they do occur when the snowpack is deep. Last February, two skiers triggered an avalanche on one of the Angel Slides on Wright Peak in the High Peaks Wilderness days shortly after a significant snowfall, and in 2000, a skier was killed in an avalanche on the same slide.
Forest Ranger Jim Giglinto, who is responsible for patrolling the High Peaks, said he's only aware of one avalanche that has occurred this winter in his area, but he said people don't report them so there could be more. The one he's aware of took place in the Trap Dike during a warm spell just before President's Day weekend.
He warned that if people do go onto the slides into avalanche-prone terrain, they should be smart about it.
"If you are going to travel in avalanche terrain, know what you are doing," Giglinto said. "Don't go alone, have self-rescue equipment - transceiver, beacon, probe, shovel - and use your brain. That's your best weapon."
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