Had a tragic avalanche death yesterday at Snowmass Resort, in Colorado near here. Nicholas Blake jumped off a cliff and triggered a slide in what is said to be a closed area. It appears the Blake had friends with him, but they were not prepared for companion rescue.
It’s interesting how variable the central Colorado snowpack presently is. Yesterday we were backcountry skiing an area about 20 miles west of Snowmass, and we found the snowpack to be tight and stable, with a layer of powder on top that was nicely glued to the substrate and had not formed any slab. That’s not saying there could have been some tricky snow where we were, so we still stayed out of avalanche path guts, dug our pits, skied one-at-a-time and kept an eye on each other. In Colorado, the possibility of a deep slab “delayed action” avalanche is always there, always lurking…
Indeed, when things look good I actually regard that as a red flag, as that’s when we tend to drop our guard and may quickly up the anti in terms of risk. In the backcountry you can move in minutes or seconds from a totally safe ski slope to a high hazard area. Let down your guard, and suddenly you’re out in the middle of some huge avalanche path where you really shouldn’t be. Or jumping off a cliff on to an avalanche slope, thus becoming an excellent human trigger… As for the man who died at Snowmass, the lessons he leaves with us are obvious — our condolences to his friends and family.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.