Snowpack during winter 2012 is much less than normal, but avalanche danger is as high, or higher than, ever.
Four skiers recently died in avalanches in the Cascades, a ski patroller from Keystone was killed near Wolf Creek Pass, and another near Telluride. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center warns of considerable avalanche danger.
This year has seen the following avalanche deaths:
Colorado - 6
Utah - 3
Montana - 3
Wyoming - 1
Washington - 4
Canada - 4
It’s not quite as bad as in Europe, which has suffered from mega-cold and snow this winter. One avalanche near Kosovo killed 10 people after it buried an entire house.
I survived an avalanche in Europe when I was little - maybe 6 or 7. My father had taken his family and some friends on a backcountry ski tour. Suddenly, my mother was screaming my name. the next thing I knew, I was buried to my neck, with only my head sticking out of the snow.
I couldn’t move my arms, or legs. I could still breathe, since my head was sticking out above the snow - which saved my life two ways - I could breathe, and someone found me.
One of our friends was only partially buried, andwas able to free himself. After that he dug out another of our group, and eventually they got us all free. No one died int hat avalanche, but the memory of my mother’s screams, and of being buried int he snow, completely immobilized, has never left me.
I track ski (classic cross country), and ski alpine at resorts, but rarely ski backcountry since moving to Colorado. We used to do lots of ski tours when I lived in California, with its wet, heavy snow resulting in a more stable snowpack, but I’ve really reduced the amount of backcountry skiing since moving to Colorado.
This winter, I’ve taken up ski racing (in gates), partly at my son’s urging, and am finding it’s really, really fun. I’m not good at it ( in fact, I’m lousy) - but it keeps my alive.
Perhaps it’s a good winter for finding other thrills,a nd wait on the backcountry until next year. Or wait for the Sierra in spring.