Mountainwatch.com is Australia & New Zealand's premier snow site and while we've been celebrating the insane amounts of snow that have been falling 'down under' of late, it's unsurprisingly brought a real and deadly avalanche danger with it.
One of our on-snow reporter's Bill Barker noted, in his daily snow report that, “there were several reports of skier triggered avalanches yesterday, and the weak layer that produced these still exists today, only now it’s buried deeper in the snowpack which will result in larger avalanches!”
Mountain Sports Collective, Australia’s foremost avalanche advisory site had the avalanche danger rating at HIGH, meaning not only is travel in avalanche terrain not recommended, but natural avalanches are ‘possible’ and human-triggered slides are ‘likely.’
Whilst MSC is predominantly a portal for backcountry skiers and boarders, avalanche terrain can even be found in bounds at many Australian resorts and the below sequence proves as much.
Professional Aussie skier Coen Bennie Faull dropping into the run ‘Tardis’ in bounds at popular Australian ski resort 'Mount Hotham' yesterday. Image:: Mark Tsukasov
Coen can be seen jamming his first turn as the slide begins to propagate around him. Image:: Mark Tsukasov
The slab avalanche is now visible and begins to slide down the slope, note that this is all occurring almost instantaneously. Image:: Mark Tsukasov
Fast forward a few frames and the slab has well and truly released, the crown line/fracture line of the avalanche visible as it snakes around the trees, particularly clear in the top right of the frame. Image:: Mark Tsukasov
We placed this avy around the 1.5 mark in terms of its size, with a 30-40cm crown certainly enough to do some harm and partially if not fully bury a skier. Image:: Mark Tsukasov
Coen at the bottom of the run looking over the considerable debris that made its way onto Mary’s return cat trail. Image:: Mark Tsukasov
Photographer Mark Tsukasov told Mountainwatch, “I was standing where Coen is standing on the cat trail (when capturing the images). Had I posted up under the face it would have knocked me over and buried me.”
“The sound scared the shit out of me. I watched it pour down and pile up in front of my skis. Only my poles where buried.” Said Mark.
Whilst it wasn’t the kind of terrain on which you’d find a beginner or intermediate skier, the fact the avalanche path made its way across the beginner's cat trail meant it was fortunate no other skiers were around at the time.
So not only was it rather surprising to see avalanche's in Australia in general. The fact it occurred inbounds was a wake-up call for more than a few people over here. Fortunately, avalanche awareness and knowledge is making massive progress in Oz with AST 1 courses becoming readily available when they otherwise hadn't been.
For more info on skiing the great southern land, check out Mountainwatch.com