A party of 5 skiers was descending Echo Peak one at a time. One skier with terrain familiarity chose to descend a steeper area above a small cliff and abrupt slope angle transition which represented a terrain trap. Upon reaching a convex portion of the slope where slope angle increased to 44 to 47 degrees, the avalanche was initiated. The wind slab failed on a 1.5 inch thick layer of lower density storm snow with a small amount of graupel present within the layer. Slab thickness ranged from around 6 inches near the trigger point to near 18 inches at the skier’s right edge of the crown near the ridgeline. The skier was carried over the small cliff and buried in the terrain trap below. The skier was able to put a hand up above the snow surface and then brush snow away from his airway which was under the snow surface. Otherwise, the buried individual was unable to move. The other members of the group organized their rescue, keeping two members in a safe area on the ridge and sending two other members one at a time down to the buried individual. The buried individual was found via the visual clue of a waiving hand just above the snow surface. A transceiver search was not needed.
Video 1: Footage of the skier triggering the avalanche and companion rescue. The exchange of transceiver and backpack shown in the video was due to the presence of two transceivers, two shovels, and two probes carried in total within the group of five. One of those transceivers and one set of rescue gear was with the buried individual. A lack of familiarity with the packed rescue equipment lead to use of the shovel blade without the handle.
Skier triggered avalanche on Echo Peak
Location Name: Echo Peak
Region: Echo Summit Area
Date and time of avalanche (best estimate if unknown):
Sat, 12/29/2012 – 1:10pm
Red Flags: Recent loading by new snow, wind, or rain