Avalanche: Girdwood

Location: Virgin Creek/Big League

Route & General Observations

Skied up and over max’s and down into Virgin Creek hoping to ski Big League. Weather was clear and warm with no wind. Obvious shedding on solar aspects. Various crusts below 2000 feet, then soft snow on N and WNW above that.

Avalanche Details
If this is an avalanche observation, click yes below and fill in the form as best as you can. If people were involved, please provide details.
Trigger SkierRemote Trigger No
Avalanche Type Hard SlabAspect West Northwest
Elevation 4000ftSlope Angle 45deg
Crown Depth 24inWidth 200ft
Vertical Run 1000ft  
Near Miss / Accident Details
Number Caught/Carried? 1Number Partially Buried? 1
Number Fully Buried?0Number Injured? 1
Number Fatalities?0  
Avalanche Details

As the third skier in our group was heading down the spine he ventured slightly further skiers left than the previous two skiers. At this point we saw the slope break approximately 30 feet above him. It propagated across multiple aspects and at points the crown was 3-4 feet deep. The skier was swept 1000 feet over multiple cliff bands, finally coming to rest partially buried at approximately 2800ft.

Events of the day

We toured up and over maxs with the hope of finding some soft snow on Big League. The western face looked pretty manky from sun effect, so we headed up the north side of Big League and gained the ridge proper. We ultimately decided on skiing the northern most spine as it had good coverage and excellent snow quality. We were aware of the recent skier triggered avalanche on Captains Chair, however were reassured by lack of wind effect and relatively isolated terrain feature. The first two skiers enjoyed great snow with no evidence of instability. However about halfway down the third skier triggered a large slab which pulled him over multiple cliff bands.

Rescue events

We immediately lost sight of the skier after he triggered the slide. Once the debris stopped we quickly found him partially buried near the toe of the debris. Once he was partially excavated it was clear he had a femur fracture. Rescue services were contacted and he was uneventfully airlifted to a hospital. Big shout out to a local CPG guide who saw us while he was out on a ski and came and rendered aid.

Overall this was a very spooky experience. We believe that this was likely triggered on the faceted layer from mid march which has not been active for the past few weeks. It broke mid face, very deep and across multiple aspects. We feel very fortunate that the caught skier escaped with only a femur fracture, as this could have easily proved fatal. Overall we had grown to trust the snowpack down south, which in retrospect was not wise. My personal takeaway is that in years with persistent weak layers, the consequences of venturing into complex terrain should not be underestimated.

Weather & Snow Characteristics
Please provide details to help us determine the weather and snowpack during the time this observation took place.

Clear, windless. Warm in the sun.

Snow surface

Variable crusts on most surfaces. N and WNW aspects above 2500 held soft snow


No formal tests performed. Hand pits revealed no obvious instability. No whumping or cracking. Surface conditions w/ no evidence of superficial instability

Photos & Video
Please upload photos below. Maximum of 5 megabytes per image. Click here for help on resizing images. If you are having trouble uploading please email images separately to staff.