By Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts
Snow keeps hammering the Vail Valley, but avalanche danger rears its ugly head
December 16, 2008 —
As I write this nearing midnight Monday, it’s been snowing lightly in West Vail for the last couple of hours. We were supposed to get close to a foot overnight and into the early evening Tuesday.
[And as I update this Tuesday morning at 7:30, both Vail and Beaver Creek are reporting 4 inches new as of 5 a.m. and it's snowing hard.]
Since Dec. 1, both Vail and Beaver Creek have tallied more than 4 feet of snow, and the Beav’ is on track to break its all-time December snowfall record. All of which means ski conditions are stellar for this time of year (or any time of year) both inbounds and out of bounds.
But that also means the avy danger is high. On Sunday, Matt Jones of Edwards was buried up to his waist in a slide on Lover’s Leap in Blue Sky Basin. The cornice, apparently wind-loaded by the brutal weather that day, reportedly gave way when Jones made a big turn on the steep slope.
I saw a snowcat nearly go over that cornice during a media tour of the area in the early 90s, long before it opened as Blue Sky. It was an enormous cornice back then, when we were experiencing season after season of deep, deep snow. In the wake of last season’s record snowfall and the way this season has started, we may be in another one of those cycles.
But with the heavy snow and endless powder days comes the risk of deadly avalanches. They’re extremely rare inbounds like the one Sunday in Vail and more likely to occur in uncontrolled areas like the Power Line area just outside of Aspen Mountain, where a former ski patroller died in a slide Sunday while skiing alone.
Last season, two skiers died in separate slides in the East Vail Chutes just outside of Vail’s boundary. Jones, who has previous backcountry experience, said he may start skiing with a shovel, beacon and probe inbounds after Sunday’s near miss.
“It just makes sense. You've got it. You've got the training on how to use it, why leave it in the car?” Jones told 9News. “I'll probably not go out without it again.”
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