New Video of Destructive Avalanche Sheds Light
[vimeo 88929496 w=600]
On March 10, 2014 Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol lowered a sled bomb off The Throne ridge which set off an enormous and highly destructive avalanche. A sled bomb is a bag of ANFO (ammonium nitrate/fuel oil), in this case 25lbs worth, with a cast booster charge placed on a plastic saucer and lowered via rope. This type of explosive contraption is used by Patrollers to place large charges on steep, dangerously loaded pitches in specific, sensitive, and often recurring points of instability. The intentionally triggered avalanche destroyed Crystal’s Lift 6, left a massive crown at the starting zone, and an impressive debris pile at the toe, which is highlighted in the video above.
The video illustrates a few facts: 1. The avalanche slid nearly 1,000 vertical feet, was highly destructive, and caused a great deal of monetary damage 2. Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol did a great job and deserves an “Atta Boy” rather than condemnation. Washington had good early season snow, a mid-season drought, and a quick, massive snowfall recently creating a very unstable snowpack. After seeing video of the slide as well as observing recent slides in the Cascades, Northwest Avalanche Center director Kenny Kramer said “…we have the potential to see these large slides not just with a massive amount of explosives but also released naturally.”
Whitelines.com called it “a cock-up of epic proportions,” while KOMO.com reported the event “didn’t go quite according to plan,” and other news sources coyly placed blame on Ski Patrol and the resort. Knee-jerk reactions like these are disrespectful, uninformed, and uneducated. What would the reaction be if Patrol had opened the area to public without doing the proper mitigation and someone was killed? What if Patrollers skied into exposed terrain and lost their lives using hand-charges instead of a sled bomb? “Not according to plan” infers that these trained professionals were somehow trying to predict and direct Mother Nature. Throw a rock into a pond and direct the ripples. The ever so English response of “a cock-up” misses the most obvious fact of this event. Ski Patrol did their job. They observed danger and mitigated it. Yes, a lift was destroyed, which was unintended and misfortunate. But everyone went home to their families at the end of the day. That is the number one priority and the point of on-resort avalanche control work.
Shame on you for placing blame on individuals who are underpaid and underappreciated rather than thanking them for protecting lives. Patrolling is not something you do, it is a part of who you are. First ones up, last ones down; we risk ours to save yours; we are the best part of your worst day. Great job Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol. Keep up the good work. Hip Hip Hooray and Atta Boy!