I was skiing Loveland Pass yesterday with a friend, and we both carry proper Avy/BC gear and know how to use it, and have BC experience. While we observed several fresh slides in the morning, including a huge recently-CDOT-triggered slide on the Professor, we felt condident in the west-facing chute we hiked to ski on the western side on the Loveland Ridge Saddle facing Keystone. It was about 2:00 in the afternoon, sunny, light wind, mid-30's. I ski-cut and shovel-cut the snow in the top of the chute and it seemed like compacted, bomber hardpack, very stable. I put on my avalung, turned on my beacon, and dropped in first. About 2/3rd's of the way down, I remember looking to my left and seeing a huge spiderweb crack shooting out across the snow, followed by a loud 'whoomf' and a rumble... the next thing I knew, the entire slope was moving. Luckily I was close the the bottom and was able to ride it out to a safe,. flat area below. I looked back in horror as my friend, on a snowboard, fought as hard as he could to stay on top of what had quickly become a massive hardslab avalanche. Luckily he was able to stay on top and was only buried up to his head as the debris settled at the end of the slide. I was able to dig him out in ~30 minutes, and neither of us sustained any injuries, miraculously. In short, we were incredibly lucky. The avalanche, which deposited up to 20 ft. of debris in places, was composed of massive 2 to 4 foot chunks of hardpacked snow, and ended up being over 400 feet wide when it came out of the chute. This was by far the scariest experience of my life and we are both grateful to be alive. I learned a valuable lesson about jumping into sketchy conditions and judging the snowpack, regardless of gear/experience. When we finally returned to the top of the Pass to get in my truck and go home, we were amazed to see multiple T.V station crews and rescue groups assembled, along with just as many gawkers and tourists, as Summit Co. Alpine Rescue rushed to the scene of a recent, even bigger slide on the south side on the pass that they believed had caught and buried several skiers. The recent wind-loading, temperature variations, and storms have severaly de-stabilized the snowpack in the front range. PLEASE BE SAFE OUT THERE! We got lucky as hell, but we may not be as lucky next time... stick to low-angle treed stuff until the conditions improve.
"Places like this will inevitably be filled with a degree of hate, misunderstanding, and straight-up ignorance of the truth. These thoughts are fueled mostly by the jealousy of those who aren't skiing often enough, good enough, or just aren't happy with life. Don't stoop to these people's level, just remember the lines you've ripped, the cliffs you've hucked, the pow you've charged, the trees you've blazed through in waist-deep fresh.. no one can take that away fromn you. This is what they hate you for."