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!
I was at the SnowSports Industries of America Trade Show (SIA 2014), talking with my boss about the next ski to check out when I caught a flash of hot pink from the corner of my eye. Startled, I turned and there I saw him, the legendary mohawked and freewheeling Glen Plake. My jaw dropped, I raised my hand and pointed while blurting out “Holy Sh*t! That’s Glen Plake!” After composing myself for a few minutes, allowing His Radness to converse with his friends, I asked for an interview. Meeting Glen Plake is a highlight for me personally and professionally. He has been one of my skiing heros since I first clicked in. I hope you enjoy the conversation…
PaddyO caught up with Matt Sterbenz, founder of 4FRNT, to discuss The Wise, David Wise’s Gold Medal Winning Ski. Check out the true camber, stiff flex, confident pipe crusher that topped the podium in Sochi. The Wise is an instant American Classic. Big congrats to David on his accomplishment and to the entire 4FRNT family for creating the ski that won the inaugural Men’s Halfpipe.
Garrett McKenzie dropped this edit a little bit ago. It’s well worth the 2:50 of your time. IF you want to get down like Garrett does, make sure to check out Rome Snowboards.
The SnowSports Industries of America Tradeshow has been revealing the latest and greatest advancements in winter mountain adventuring for the last 60 years. The Denver Convention Center was filled this past January 30 thru February 2 with exciting new gear. Among the standouts was Black Diamond’s Jetforce Airbag Backpack. As backcountry skiing has become more popular or rather more crowded, Airbag Backpack systems have seen improvements and refinements. The Jetforce is the sleekest and most refined system to date. Black Diamond worked with Pieps and the military to develop a cold weather lithium battery to power the fan used for inflation. Taking a mere 3 seconds to inflate one of the largest (200 liters) and burliest bags on the market, the hard wired battery offers something firing pin systems lack: the ability to deploy the bag with no additional cost. The battery allows up to 4 deployments on a single charge. The adventurer can practice life saving skills as one does with an avalanche beacon or re-inflate the bag in the event of a secondary slide or release of hangfire. At the SIA demo, the rep stated the bag can also stay inflated with up to a 6 inch gash and demonstrated the ease of packing the deflated bag. The backpack is also travel ready; without compressed air or a firing pin there is no need to stow the bag in the ski carrier outside the Helicopter or check it on a commercial airplane. The Black Diamond Jetforce Airbag Backpack was the best new innovation at the Snow Show and is the best system on the market. Read More
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