Avalanche: Seward

Location: Snug Harbor, V-Max area

Route & General Observations

Snowmachine triggered avalanche on January 20, 2021. Party of four riders in the area. One rider caught, carried, able to swim to top and was not buried.

Big thank you to the rider involved for sharing their story below. We are very thankful everyone is OK.

Video of avalanche and aftermath (also linked below):

Avalanche Details
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Trigger SnowmachinerRemote Trigger Unknown
Avalanche Type UnknownAspect North
Elevation 2600ftSlope Angleunknown
Crown Depth 16inWidth 400ft
Vertical Run 600ft  
Near Miss / Accident Details
Number Caught/Carried? 1Number Partially Buried?0
Number Fully Buried?0Number Injured?0
Number Fatalities?0  
Avalanche Details

The avalanche was 1-2' deep, ~400' wide and ran ~600' feet. It is likely it was remotely triggered from below. The weak layer is suspected to be the new/old snow interface. The rider observed around 8" of recent snow from a couple days ago (1/18) in the valley bottom. The recent snow was around 18" deep on the slope where it had been wind loaded.

Events of the day

A group of four riders rode from Snug Harbor trail head and past V-Max hill. All riders had avalanche safety gear (beacon, shovel and probe). The avalanche occurred just up drainage from V-Max hill on a north facing slope. One rider was above the rest on the slope when the avalanche released. The rider who was caught and a snowbiker (seen in the video) were just below this person. The rider who was caught saw a crack propagate across the slope and attempted to get away from the moving debris. The debris was so fast it caught them as they had turned downhill and tore the machine right out from under the rider. The rider was able to use swimming motions and was even kicked up out of the debris at one point by the machine tumbling in front of him. The rider came to rest on/near the surface of the debris as it stopped and were able to roll out and stand up uninjured. The machine was near the surface about 10 feet behind the rider. Of note, the rider had an airbag but was unable to deploy it - described in the rider's words below. The snowbiker was not caught, nor were the other two riders in the group. Please take a minute to watch the video and read the rider's account.

Quotes from FB comments by rider:
"out of snug harbor, two pins show where I was initially hit and where I slid to (see photo). Yes high alert, i decided to turn down and try to get down the face as fast as possible and before I knew it I got hit by the wall of snow and immediately went to grab my avy bag trigger and couldn't feel it because the snow was pulling my bag in a way that the trigger went further toward my back, it was already positioned to high, felt good on the positioning when just sitting in the parking lot with it on but in an avalanche you don’t know how your bag will be pulled so I suggest making the pull cord as close to the middle of the chest as possible. After I couldn’t reach my pull cord I decided swimming was my best bet which was quite effective and I tried to keep my legs up so they wouldn’t get dragged under. I did go under twice and luckily my sled was rolling in front of my and I hit the track and it churned me up and that’s when I finally stayed on top and the slide stopped. If it went a little further I would’ve been in a terrible terrain trap and probably would’ve been a lot deeper."

"I think it was purely triggered from us being on the slope, one rider went up, then I went up and went to turn around as the third rider came up and the avalanche breaks away right when I look at the snow biker, I saw the crack first propagate then followed it across the face to my right. And went into oh f___ I’m gonna die mode, basically had to take the fall line of the mountain down and met the avalanche, and by the time I saw it slide to the time it hit me was about 5 seconds and the avalanche had carried enough speed to rip my sled out from under me. Man I always knew how powerful they are and scary but I never expected it to happen so fast. Very grateful to be able to share my experience."

"wish you could see it in the video, but every time I came above the snow I was able to see my buddy. I was praying he was watching me and he was. Watching your friends in the back country 100 percent of the time is crucial I will always say that for now on considering how fast this happened to me, the other two guys above me didn’t even know the slide happened. Pretty scary to think about"

Rescue events

Self Rescue by rider involved.

This same slope claimed the life of a snowmachiner in January of 2017:

Photos & Video
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