12th Annual Utah Snow & Avalanche Workshop Open and Motorized Sessions November 2.

Avalanche: Big Willow

Observer Name
Shane Kemp
Observation Date
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Avalanche Date
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Big Willow
Location Name or Route
Big Willow Aprons
We climbed lookers right apron.  Quick hand pit on the way up showed some weakness 18" with a somewhat clean shear.  Near the top, as we booted to the ridge, some surface/new snow was breaking in small pieces but it seemed manageable.   First skier generated a good sluff but stayed ahead of it.  Second skier skied without incident.  Third skier (me) on slope triggered smaller pocket near ridge.  We all skied in about the same place at the top, picking our way around some rocks. When I got just above the main slope, the pocket around me pulled out and swept me onto the larger slope.  I was quickly knocked off my feet and it took me a second to decide I needed to stop myself. I felt the bed surface and spun my skis as hard as I could into the snow and punched in with my hands.  Lost a pole in that move. And maybe that’s when my ski was broken. From the bottom skier 1 said he could tell I slowed down and saw the snow move past me.  As the pocket hit lower on the main slope it propagated to the skier's right under the cliffs.  Based on all the graupel we had seen that makes sense - that was the deepest part of the crown, maybe 4 feet.  ( only guessing from afar )
The initial report said 2 caught and carried, I think that was a mistake. Skier 1 was at the bottom, and he was trying to keep eyes on me and the toe of the slide did hit him – but skier 2 who was standing pretty close by was able to get out of the way.
Other thoughts:
I felt like the concern for the day was going to be day-time heating. Surface/new snow sluffing seemed like a manageable possibility. The slab avalanche definitely caught us off guard. We’re not positive, but the upper pocket could have been a wind slab – makes sense given the elevation and the winds.
pic 1 = zoomed in on starting zone crown
pic 2 = full slide
pic 3 = after skier's 1 + 2

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