Joined: 17 Jan 2005 Posts: 22 Location: Park City, UT
Posted: Tue Jan 18, 2005 5:24 pm Post subject: Reliable information?
Can anyone recommend a reliable source of information on the avalanche?
Most of my information comes from a friend who was part of the search team on Friday afternoon. Nearly all of the newspaper and TV reports that I've seen are very light on details.
The Salt Lake Tribune mentions "An accident report issued Monday by the U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center", but I can't find this report on the UAC website. (Although there's an empty folder called "Dutch_Draw_1-14-05" in ~uac/Accidents.)
According to my friend, one guy was pulled out alive on Friday. But I've read absolutely nothing about that in any news reports. It seems strange to me, if someone was indeed rescued, that this would not have been reported triumphantly in the news. (To be fair to my friend, he described seeing someone on a backboard, moving his arms, while the search continued. I can imagine that this might have just been SAR practicing or testing equipment.)
Now the search has been called off, and the Sherriff has declared only one fatality. This also seems bizarre: only one person was buried in the slide -- presumably, the guy who triggered it. Was nobody else in Dutch's at the time? On a sunny friday with great conditions?
What I'd like to know is this. How many people were hit by the slide? How many were fully buried? How many were rescued alive? How many were wearing beacons? (I've assumed thus far that none were wearing beacons, but now I'm questioning even that.)
Joined: 06 Dec 2004 Posts: 791 Location: Ask Heisenberg
Posted: Tue Jan 18, 2005 5:39 pm Post subject:
Is there a sign warning the avalanche hazard is not managed at the gate entrance to this avalanche path?
If so, then that ends this discussion.
Allowing access to public lands supercedes poor judgement.
Closing the gate, moving or removing the lift, or other such actions to prevent a fourth incident in this area does not have to mean disallowing access to public lands. I think the public should have full rights to access public land (without any fees or special taxes). But I don't think the public has any inherent right to expect access to the backcountry via a ski lift.
I don't care much one or another exactly what they do, but something needs to be done. I would only object to any plan which limited non-mechanized access via public lands. As long as the only limitations are on lift access through private or privately managed lands public access still exists.
Joined: 06 Dec 2004 Posts: 1576 Location: This is the Place
Posted: Tue Jan 18, 2005 5:59 pm Post subject:
From tgr.com here's the text of a letter from a witness to the Sheriff's office & the UAC:
You have received many reports from me in the past. My name is .... and I am the leader of The Canyons backcountry community. I am the only person who skis in that backcountry everyday, all day. I am semi-retired, so it is all I do and it is my life in the winter. I am deeply disturbed by all of the conflicting reports and comments regarding the incident on Cone Head in Dutch's Draw.
I was very close to The Draw when the incident occured and I have a sneaking suspicion that those who I tried to chase away from The Draw were the 5-6 people involved. I also flew in to the deposition zone on one of the helicopters and helped out on the search Friday afternoon/evening.
Contrary to many reports, nothing other than West Monitor looked like the ESE face of High Dutch/ Cone Head. The amount of wind loading and hard wind rippling on the face was worse than I have seen in 7 years on Cone Head. It is certainly no coincidence that West Monitor and Cone Head slid. The snow on the steep faces was almost all soft with the exception of these two spots. The wind played tricks over here and it is strange, as any experienced backcountry skier will know. Steep slopes in the near vicinity
of The Draw were subjected to huge cornice drops without incident. But they all faced due east or toward the north half of the compass. It was the ESE slopes, directly leward of that powerful WNW wind that was the extreme problem.
My group and I actually had ski tracks taken out by the massive slide. We felt relatively comfortable on the 35 degree slope, skiing one at a time, right on the Goal Posts (the two trees at the far skiers right of the slide). The main concern was the potential of someone to drop in on the 38+ degree Cone Head while we were on the adjacent slope. I am trully amazed that the first 3 boarders that rode Cone Head did not trigger a major slide. Contrary to reports, there were 12-13 sets of existing tracks in the main
drain of Dutch's Draw (the south half of The Draw that go's from Cone Head to Owens Trees and Easter Bowl).
The "High Dutch" to 9990 north half of Dutch's Draw had hundreds of tracks and was released only after the pre-search bombing. The slope that was skier triggered was NOT heavily skied. Myself and all the local backcountry skiers are very disturbed by what the explosive bombing of the north half of The Draw has created for the future: one incredibly slick bed surface in the one place that gets hundreds of times the traffic that the south half of The Draw gets.
Most of the news reports have greatly bothered me, especially the
conflicting comments made by Sheriff Edmonds. His statements that leaving The Canyons Resort and skiing Forest Service land is illegal, pretty much shows he is out of tune with the real situation. Statements regarding postponing the search for the safety of the searchers is simply nonsense. I was there, that's not why we quit Friday night.
I simply cannot understand the behaviour of the "Search and Rescue" people. It is fair to say by any objective measure that no one was in any hurry to get a search moving. This is my third search at The Canyons and fourth overall and none have been more than body recovery's from the first minute on the scene. Some of my buddies were the first on the scene in The Draw and
began a hasty probe search in and around the most obvious trees. They felt little danger, considering The Draw's dangerous snow pack was already under their feet. They were chased out of the area by the ski patrol and thus began the endlessly slow process of the "official" search. We all know time is of the essense. I personally spent nearly one hour buried after a big slide and I am here, alive 10 years later. The odds of secondary slides
after the force that pulled out that monster was certainly low enough to get some kind of hasty search together with the dogs.
For me it's pretty simple, Fire Fighters don't wait until the building has burned to the ground and quit smoldering before doing anything. There were 20 experienced backcountry skier volunteers standing ready to go up there and search on a moments notice, but the powers-that-be wanted to bomb the hell out of all the slopes, send inexperienced ski instructors, two by two, in helicopters and set up probing teams all 3 hours after the slide.
Apparently, no one seemed to notice that there were two chairlifts that would get you to a short, safe traverse to the search zone in 10 minutes.
What my friends and I, who constitute the bulk of the serious backcountry skiers at The Canyons, witnessed, was nothing short of a complete disgrace.
Having said that, I appreciate the service of the Search and Rescue Teams, and recognize a simple reality: we all must be resposible and educated in whatever we do in this life. For me, leaving the boundary of the ski area, whether it's through a backcountry access gate or Highway 224, you take responsibility for yourself. _________________
Best to have an unobstructed path if yer taking a long ride.
Shedgar,,thank you for your incredibly informative post. Seem that the ICS of the public officials was not coordinated with the resort. The resort should review and update its emergency response plan for the Dutchs
I kinda liked the sheriff intitially, but now it seems he over-reacted.
First it was 15 buried and now its only 1. Wierd how far off they really were.
I think that may be indicative of the fact that the resort/patroller had no idea who was over there. They should track people better if they are to continue this access. A dedcicated patroller/volunteer in the Dutches on weekends or something would really help. Until they come up with something better, they should close the area.
That is an oustanding report from Shredgar. Although others will see his version from a different point of view, what I like best about it is it comes first hand. It is not speculative as so many nauseating T-Tips accident reports usually are. It brings up an important point. The new wave of thinking as I hear so often is to think carefully about rushing into an avalanche rescue situation as the primary consideration is the safety of the rescuer. Don't become a victim yourself. I DON'T WANT TO BELITTLE THAT POINT, but it kinda bugs me. Truth is in at least 90% of avalanches, the danger is gone post-release. Now hold your breath while you think about this. Wait 60 seconds. Ok, how careful do you want your rescuers to be? To each his own but it would have to be an awfully ugly situation to make me give into some protocol delaying my very quick attempt at rescuing people in need.
just fyi, the guy that was with the boarder buried in the slide had all the necessary gear to be out there safely. it was in his car. i think it may illistrate the amount of respect given to resort accessed (top and bottom) bc runs. i think that bot alta and the bird have a different setup with regarde to bc runs. at both resorts, once you leave you know you are on your own since you are not going to ski right back to the lift.
here is a pic of the slope just before the slide came down:
these are from yesterday. access to most of the ridge was blocked by patrol on order of the summit co sheriff.
here is the lift in relation to the slope:
the 6-8' crown:
the two cliff bands that the boarder may have jumped off of:
I agree with telemike and shredgar, requiring gear for going out of the gate should be required. Snow Bird requires this, and I have no problem with that policy. The notion that it is signed and people should be aware is naive to say the least. Those doing the rescue are put at risk and yours tax dollars are being spent in the meantime. Now if the notion is purely "Let them show up in the spring" was the policy in these situations, then the poster who suggested this I would agree with. However, this isn't the case. _________________ ~km
"Everyday is a potential avalanche day."
I noticed that the rock bands were exposed fully as result of the slide? Rock bands typically indicate the steepest lines and start at 35 or so.
this could be a case of "lets ski steeper" syndrome. As skiers converge on a untracked slope, typically the lower angles get tested first, and then a bit steeper, then a bit steeper, then a bit steeper. "who wants to dig a pit after 3 great runs" False security takes over as test skiers keep pushing the line over. This is serious issue with heliskiing here in regards to clients not following guides lines.....they stray for the untracked. I am guilty of this also, but being aware that you are skiing in to steeper untracked snow should raise some concerns.
Snowdynamics, do you have children? If so would let your teenager go to the Canyons unsuppervised with a group of friends? A parents advice don't mean shit when peer pressuse comes into play. Its the kids that I'm worried about after 18, your old enough the be responsible for your actions. Maybe I'm wrong maybe we should let 12 year olds drive as well.
"Take away public access to public lands and you have defeated what powder skiing is about"
What is it about?....dead young teenagers or younger just for protecting some political myth about public access rights to public lands.........gimme a break...these are kids, not adults.
We have an overriding social responsibility to protect our young more than any other segment of society, no matter what a gate says. Most young I meet are "naturally" irresponsible, even the nerds and brainiacs. They are not dumb or stupid, naive yes, but not a bunch of boneheads. Kids are the most wonderful part of life. At least my two are.
"The kids I teach learn that the ski area is a controlled, patrolled environment, and they should ski or ride responsibly within the boundaries. "
I will bet that two of the five kids you teach will ignore everything you say at one time or another and "naturally" break rules within and out of the ski area....Its not becuase of your efforts, its becasue they are kids.
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