BC Zone Observation Report
Monday, February 6, 2017 at 12:00 AM
Vail & Summit County
Vail & Summit County
Big Eyes Couloir, Red Peak B
Overcast skies with periods of blue. Blustery on ridge tops.
A dusting of new snow at the parking lot, increasing to around 6 inches at 11,000ft. We set a anchor atop the couloir and I preformed a "hasty" pit as well as two ski cuts while on belay. I found around 4-8'' of extremely light density snow on top of a thick homogenous slab of snow (1F hardness) that went beyond 1.3m deep (the extent of my digging). The overlying snow was not cohesive at all and there was no evidence of slab formation.
After deciding we were comfortable with the snow stability I proceeded to ski the first pitch of the chute. After 10 turns or so the snow became much deeper and I stopped to yell up to my partner to not venture any further than skier's left of my tracks in the chute. Another few turns and I paused again, feeling very uncomfortable now in 18'' of new snow. At this point in time I was two turns away from our first safe zone and the entrance of the four skier's tracks just an hour or two prior of us. The chute "Y's" at the top and they had used the eastern entrance. It was during this next two turns where the slab released. I was then carried down the entirety of the couloir while my partner watched in horror. I came to rest sitting up as the debris slowed down after a brutally violent ride nearly 1500ft long. It is nothing short of a miracle that I sustained no major injuries. I lost both skis and poles in the slide. The debris however was only 2-3 feet deep at most, not that much snow moved. I would suspect the slab was around 75â€™ x 100â€™ and 18â€™â€™ deep. SS-ASu-R3-D2. I should have been Coloradoâ€™s 1st fatality this season. Donâ€™t let this seasonâ€™s somewhat atypical Colorado snowpack lure you into terrain of high consequence without proper risk assessment and confidence in your decision making abilities. I was overly confident that the conditions I found while on the belay at the top of the chute would be the most suspect stability wise. After deeming the entrance safe I should have been more diligent in my ongoing observations of the snow. I also should have trusted my intuition when I stopped for the second time due to the deeper snow farther down the couloir. Two turns away from a safe zone and 4 tracks from the same day also gave me a false sense of security and I proceeded without doing a thoughtful reassessment of the conditions. Do not underestimate the potential for unsuspecting large loads in couloirs such as this one, a dusting at the car and I ended up triggering an 18â€™â€™ soft slab. I plan to write a more in depth analysis of the day at some point once I have fully processed the situation. Be thankful for the beautiful mountains we get to plan in and live to ski another day.
AS / u