JACKSON, Wyo. — It was a day of near-misses in the backcountry Sunday as no less than three avalanches caught or nearly caught skiers yesterday as temperatures warmed into the low 40s on the valley floor.
The tumultuous day began at noon with a slide in Turkey Shoot (Chute) at about 9,495’ elevation. A skier triggered a soft slab that cracked from 20 feet above her and sweep her off her skis. The crown size is unknown but it was the most recent snowfall layer roughly 6” deep.
The snow carried the skier all the way down and around the corner of the chute pulling out other soft slabs along the way. She deployed an airbag and was not buried in the event and luckily walked away unharmed.
Two hours later, another avalanche ran a good length of Broken Thumb Couloir, also breaking off the last six inches of snowfall.
Three skiers dropped into Broken Thumb on the north side of 25 Short. The upper pitch was reported stable, and two previous runs on the east face earlier that day were uneventful.
Then, above the couloir, a small soft slab avalanche released approximately 100-200 feet. The skiers reported re-assessing snow conditions and decided to continue down into the Broken Thumb believing they would be able to manage small pockets of wind slab.
But a hard slab avalanche broke in the upper area of Broken Thumbs at about 9,071 feet. It spanned the width of the couloir and ran the full course through the crux, causing another hard slab avalanche about 12 inches in depth in the lower couloir which ran well into the bottom of Avalanche Canyon. The total length of the slide path was estimated at about 2,000 feet.
“Luckily I was able to ski off the slab before it was able to take me down, but the snow was highly reactive and moved very quickly,” reported one of the skiers. “The three of us then descended the couloir, rappelling the crux and skiing into Avalanche Canyon, thankfully unharmed.”
Finally, a skier was carried some 40 yards to a clump of large trees and buried waist-high while standing erect as the snow formed a dam at the trees.
The incident occurred on the north-facing slope at the top of Maverick at about 5 p.m. The avalanche deposited snow about 60 yards below at a dense tree line. It is estimated to have been a 20-inch crown.
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