Avalanche gives two a close call

January 23, 2019
A snowboarder and skier survive the same avalanche.

A skier and snowboarder were caught, carried 100 to 150 yards, and buried in an avalanche they triggered in the Warm Springs Creek drainage on Sunday.

The skier was fully buried, and it took about 25 minutes for him to dig himself out of the debris, according to a news release from the Sawtooth Avalanche Center. The snowboarder was partially buried with his head and torso beneath the snow. He also extricated himself.

They were riding in the “sidecountry” or “out-of-bounds” terrain on Bald Mountain, outside the ski area boundary, near Ketchum.

Neither rider was seriously injured. The avalanche was at least 150 feet wide and released on a northwest aspect near 8,000 feet in elevation. U.S. Forest Service Sawtooth Avalanche Center staff visited the site Monday and will publish a report in the coming days.

“This was an extremely close call,” the press release from the avalanche center states. “These individuals are fortunate they were not seriously injured or killed. The terrain in this area is heavily treed, so most people caught in avalanches here sustain significant trauma. Picture riding a bike downhill at 30 miles per hour and jumping off into a forest — it usually doesn’t end well.”

The slopes being so close to the “controlled and patrolled” terrain inside a ski area may give riders a false sense of security when they venture into sidecountry terrain. The out-of-bounds terrain has a dangerous, backcountry snowpack, but it can be difficult for people to recognize how different conditions can be just a few feet outside ski area boundaries. Ski area personnel work to mitigate avalanche hazard inside their boundaries, but they do not evaluate or reduce hazard on the slopes outside the ski area boundary. Safely riding in backcountry avalanche terrain — including areas right outside ski area boundaries — requires specialized education, equipment, and experience, according to the avalanche center.

Avalanches big enough to bury and kill people will remain likely while the weak layers of snow near the ground adjust to the weight of all the new snow that has fallen in January. It will take days or weeks for many slopes to stabilize, especially if storms continue to move through the area. The avalanche center urges everyone traveling in avalanche terrain to visit sawtoothavalanche.com for daily forecasts and updates on conditions.

Update hourly