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Tobacco roots / bell lake yurt avalanche fatality

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  • Tobacco roots / bell lake yurt avalanche fatality

    More details are emerging about the avalanche that claimed one life in the Tobacco Root Mountains last week. On January 25, 2019, four skiers who were staying at Bell Lake Yurt in the Tobacco Root Mountains were caught in an avalanche at approximately 1:15 p.m. As they were ascending a slope on skis

    Avalanche in low angle trees.

  • #2
    Terrifying. Thanks for sharing. It's a good reminder to always leave lots of space in your group, any time you're moving. I will quibble with the description of a "36-40°" slope as "low-angle," since that includes the magic number 37, while also acknowledging that I as well probably would have judged those trees to be a pretty safe place to skin.


    • #3
      Thanks for sharing. I agree bobbytooslow, they definitely weren't on a low angle slope. They decided to ski low angle because of the obvious instability, but then they skied high angle anyway. They actually got lucky they didn't all get buried during their decent through an avalanche path. It's another startling reminder of how easy it is for all of us to make poor decisions.


      • #4
        Tragic. The report says they were skiing low angle slopes and tried to ascend back to the ridge they had come up from the yurt by traversing and then gaining the ridge up 36-40 degree and treed slopes. And there were a couple of switchbacks between the first and last skier. Hard to find any error many of us don't commit.


        • #5
          Originally posted by dschane
          Hard to find any error many of us don't commit.
          That's how I see it too. I'm not very familiar with continental snowpacks, so it's hard to know if I would have skied that glade of trees or not. I inherently know that my lack of continental snowpack experience means I have to either trust a group leader who does have experience, or be extra cautious as a neophyte to that area. Persistent deep instabilities are not the norm in my area, but this year has had a streak of cold weather, so we actually have that situation presently buried about 3-5 feet down. Our saving grace has been that the new snow has stayed cold and hasn't really consolidated into a cohesive slab yet, but that's just a matter of time. It's a race to see if the weight of snow and local temperature help that persistant layer to bond or the resulting slabs from settling break free while we're still in our winter phase, before the eventual release come springtime. I'm being cautious mostly because there's good skiing inbounds and in the side country, so maybe laziness is keeping me safe too.

          The crown height in the picture looked large which means massive amounts of snow. Scary
          Last edited by tele.skier; 25 February 2019, 08:46 AM.
          the fall line is your friend.... resistance is futile