Avalanche: Pole Canyon

Observer Name
Observation Date
Sunday, January 15, 2023
Avalanche Date
Sunday, January 15, 2023
Salt Lake » Mill Creek Canyon » Pole Canyon
Location Name or Route
Porter Fork-->Sox's
Slope Angle
Avalanche Type
Soft Slab
Avalanche Problem
New Snow
We were on a N facing slope ~32 degrees steep, with short, steep, trees above us on Sox's in upper PoFo. It was also absolutely nuking! We were skinning up and across the slope at about 9000 feet and we saw a fresh shallow crown on a steep slope ahead of us. We skinned over a few feet to check out the debris and while we were discussing how we should just ski from there and not continue forward, another small natural from the steeper slope above us came down. It was barely enough to knock us off our feet. Person 1 was uphill of a big tree and got pushed into the tree and tipped downhill. Person 2 was just behind on the skin track and just got pushed downhill a few inches.
Three poles got buried, but luckily no people did. Person 1 was hanging upside down by their skis, but were not covered in snow. We were in communication the whole time. Person 2 was able to dig out the skis of Person 1 and un-attach the skis from their feet. One pole was found, but Person 1's poles are history until the summer.
Lessons Learned:
  • Don't stand uphill of trees. This was a small slough and had we been downhill of the tree or had there been no tree, there likely would have been no (or very minor) issue. The "island of safety" was downhill of the tree; not uphill.
  • Don't travel under steep slopes when it is snowing hard. We are pretty familiar with this terrain and were aware of the short steep slope off the ridge above us. We considered the existing snowpack and felt fairly confident that it was stable enough to travel under. What we failed to consider was the rapidly accumulating new snow that did not have time to stabilize.
  • Small sloughs can still ruin your day. If it is snowing 1-2"/hour, it doesn't matter that the old snow is thick and stable. The new snow will fail to bond under its own rapidly accumulating weight on steeper slopes and can push you into a tree or knock you over and bury you.
Thank you Ullr and Mother Nature for these gentle reminders. We will not take them for granted.