Avalanche: Girdwood

Location: Raggedtop

Route & General Observations

Skinned SW aspect up to 3,000ft. We choose an area that did not have active wind loading at the time we started, and we hoped would remain sheltered from the prevailing winds.

Avalanche Details
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Trigger SkierRemote Trigger Unknown
Avalanche Type Soft SlabAspect Southeast
Elevation 3000ftSlope Angle 35deg
Crown Depth 12inWidth 300ft
Vertical Run 80ft  
Near Miss / Accident Details
Number Caught/Carried? 1Number Partially Buried?0
Number Fully Buried?0Number Injured?0
Number Fatalities?0  
Events of the day

We were aware of the forecasted avalanche problems and went into the day keeping eyes open for them. The snow conditions gave us no concern from 1100 until about 2900ft, when we wrapped onto the far lookers' right (western) edge of the bowl. As the slope steepened above 30deg we spread out, feeling the increasing risk. Just below a small convexity the lead skinner felt the snow change under his feet and got very wary. He changed route to avoid the slabby snow, and we all consulted on possible options to change our uptrack to an entirely different area in the bowl. The lead skinner switch-backed to try a different direction past the convexity, as he stepped out into another small open area between shrubs he paused again, stating that he didn't like the feeling of it. Our group closed distance to speak and we discussed possible options to change to a different area again. It was finally decided to try to push just 20 more feet to get past the small convexity. With his very next step, the slope cracked and propagated at least 100 yards across the bowl to the south-west. The lead skinner was knocked down and carried about 20ft. The avalanche ran about 80 vertical feet total, almost crossing the skin track on the switch-back below it. The crown depth was 4-14". The slope angle at the trigger spot measured 35deg, at the crown I estimated it to be 38-40deg, and at the toe it was 29deg.
After discussing ways to possibly ski some other aspect safely in the same bowl, we decided to retreat via our up track. We returned all the way to the valley, switched to a different mountain with skiable slopes below 2,000ft on a South-West aspect, and enjoyed several awesome laps of powder skiing.

Rescue events

No rescue required. Skinner 1 was not buried, he actually managed to stand back up while being carried and started to ski out of the debris before it stopped.

Red Flags
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Observer Comments

The hollow sounds of the wind slab underfoot were the first signs we'd seen in the day so far, the avalanche happened minutes later.
There was widespread spindrift on other peaks in the area, but not on the peak we were skiing.

Weather & Snow Characteristics
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clear and windy. Temperatures fell quickly througout the day

Snow surface

a few inches of loose powder snow over a consolidated base

Photos & Video
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