Local Avalanche Incidents

March 11th, 2015 - Telemark Ridge, Chilkat Range

Updated 3/12/2015

Location:Telemark Ridge, Chilkat Range, Lat/Lon unknown
Date/Time of Occurrence: 3/11/2015, ~11:30am
Mode of Travel: Helicopter drop
Accident Type: Partial Burial
Number in Party: unreported
Persons Buried: 1
Persons Injured: 0
Persons Killed: 0
Accident Details:
Type: unreported
Trigger: Artificial - skier triggered, ski cut
Size: unreported
Sliding Surface: unreported
Aspect: unreported
Elevation: unreported
Slope Angle: unreported
Depth: unreported

Weather Summary:
Increasing North winds on March 10th with clear skies into the 11th and cold temperatures.

Light snow, 1-2" fell above 1500ft March 8th-9th with rapidly dropping temperatures and strong Southwest winds.

3-8" of snow fell above 1500ft from March 4th-7th. Winds were light.

Around 2" of precipitation fell from Feb. 11th-14th, with snow levels rising to 2000ft. South winds came in on the 12th. A couple of weak storms dropped 3-8" from the 20th-22nd.

A storm on Feb. 8th dumped 15-24" of very low-density snow, with strong north winds blowing it around.

Snowpack Summary:
The snowpack in many alpine areas on the day of the slide was generally well-bonded in the midpack. The main concern for several days prior in all zones was with surface wind slabs that were cold, fresh, and not well bonded to the midpack below.

On March 10th, An HAIC observer on a different range 15 miles to the north of the accident (E aspect, 4700ft), found poor stability in the upper 20cm of snow, but low propagation potential. Short shooting cracks were observed on convex slopes 30 to 35-degrees. There were no signs of instability in the underlying snow, and the surface layer was found to be manageable on wind-protected slopes.

The advisory published by the AAIC for Haines on the day of the incident rated the danger as MODERATE, stating:

  • The winds have switched direction from southwest earlier in the week to north-northwest---leaving a lot of possibility for wind slabs to develop. Below the fresh wind slabs the midpack is mostly stable.
  • Look for the slopes that have been loaded with fresh snow, and avoid them. Seek out wind-protected areas and keep your guard up for slabiness. Always wear a beacon, shovel, and probe, and know how to use them.

    Details of the Incident:

    Information as reported by the Alaska Dispatch News:

  • "[A skier] avoided serious injury Wednesday after he was buried by an avalanche while assessing conditions for an upcoming competition, according to Alaska State Troopers.

    [The skier] was skiing in the Telemark Ridge area of the Kicking Horse Valley west of Haines when he made a hard curve and triggered an avalanche. Snow covered most of [his] body, including his head, said Megan Peters, troopers spokeswoman.

    A 911 caller reported the avalanche to troopers around 11:30 a.m, saying one skier was missing, Peters said.

    [Heli-ski Company] personnel were able to quickly find and rescue [the skier], Peters said. "

  • Details from the skier involved:

  • "I was breathing, had an airway, snow was swept from my lips not from my throat, I was discharge with no injury and I am very proud of my [team] who were there to assist me after a ski cut used to mitigate one of the potential competition sites propagated a slide that knocked me off my feet and took me down a wide chute. I was able to deploy my air bag and was wearing a helmet which assisted in a speedy recovery and no injuries. In this day and age of instant news a lot of things get misinterpreted as the full story usually unfolds after all information is gathered. I appreciate all the outpouring of support, but as with other professions, mine has some risk to it, but safety precautions and protocols are in place to effect a successful response with positive results."
  • ADN Article, with comments by the skier involved