Unstable steep snowy slopes have officials advising backcountry users that now is not the time to “go big.”
Two people were caught in backcountry snow slides over the weekend according to the Sierra Avalanche Center, one a skier and the other a snowmobiler and both escaped serious injuries.
Two skiers on Saturday afternoon were skinning up Nipple Peak in the Carson Pass area when one accidentally triggered a slide.
The skiers were hiking up opposite sides of a bowl above the treeline when a “sizable slab” gave way and swept away the skier, according to an incident report. The skier deployed his airbag and his head was just underneath the surface when the slide ended at the bottom in the trees.
The other skier was out of the path and avoided the slide.
The other avalanche was also reported on Saturday in the Tahoe National Forest in the Little Truckee Summit region.
A snowmobiler said he was cognizant of the avalanche forecast as his group was working its way into the Webber Lake area but was re-routed due to “wind-scoured ridges and exposed rock.”
“We were side-hilling and in a momentary lapse of judgement, or the fact that we were just moving along too fast, I popped out of the trees onto an exposed face,” according to the incident report. “I immediately recognized the hazard, but immediately saw the snow fracture above me and propagate across the ridge.”
The snowmobiler with no other choice attempted to outrun the slide but was caught while dropping into the treeline.
The rider was thrown from the sled and buried up to the helmet against a tree. The avalanche was about 280 feet in length.
The group witnessed the event and was there about a minute later to provide assistance. The rider was uninjured and recovered the machine that was buried in about 6 feet of snow.
The avalanches took place on steep slopes of 40 degrees or more and officials are advising users to choose slopes that are 30 degrees or less.
The center said on Monday in the daily forecast that there is still considerable avalanche danger.
“Whumpfing, shooting cracks, recent avalanches, and unstable snow pit test results are all indications of unstable snow in the area,” said the statement. “Do not underestimate potential avalanche size, potential run out distance, or the hazard from connected terrain above or to the side. Think bigger avalanche than expected.”