Avalanche: Girdwood

Location: Raggedtop

Route & General Observations

A group of 3 skiers started from Crow Creek Trailhead at 11:00 am, cold and clear at the start of the tour. We ascended up through the meadows using the skin track already in place and gained the ridge to ski an east facing line. The clouds started coming in while we were climbing and we felt the wind change around 1:30 or 2:00. One skier triggered a wind slab and was caught and carried. They were carried about 30-40 feet before they were able to self arrest. Back to the car at 3:30 pm and happy to all be healthy.

We tried quickly to get photos of the debris pile, but the flat light didn’t do us any favors.

Avalanche Details
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Trigger SkierRemote Trigger No
Avalanche Type Hard SlabAspect East
Elevation 3900ftSlope Angleunknown
Crown Depth 6inWidth 30ft
Vertical Run 700ft  
Near Miss / Accident Details
Number Caught/Carried? 1Number Partially Buried?0
Number Fully Buried?0Number Injured?0
Number Fatalities?0  
Avalanche Details

On our approach we picked a chute into an east facing bowl. Our plan was to ski one at a time through the chute and regroup in a safe area skiers right below a rock band and continue descending one at a time back to the skin track from there. Skier 1 skied down through the chute with no problems and got to the safe area and called up for the next skier. Skier 2 started to descend down the left side about 50 feet, hit a rock under the snow and started to fall. As they were falling a wind slab about 30 feet wide broke and started carrying them and one of their skis came off. After being carried 30-40 feet they were able to stop themselves on the left edge of the slide path. More wind slab on the skiers left of the chute broke off as the debris moved downhill. Once the debris had passed they traversed skiers right across the bed surface and regrouped with skier 1. Skier 3 descended the bed surface which was a mix of old wind slab and facets and regrouped with skier 1 and skier 2. We saw the ski in the bottom of the bowl and descended one at a time to the right of the debris path where the angle seemed more mellow. After locating the ski, we skied out of the bowl and back to the trailhead. We guessed it ran about 700-800 feet before stopping.

Events of the day

We read the avalanche report and saw wind slab was going to be our main concern for the day. During our ascent we noticed wind texture in the lower meadows but it didn't feel like a slab. Up higher on the ridge it didn't look like the wind had done as much damage to the area we wanted to ski as other mountains we could see during our climb. After chatting about it we decided we were all comfortable with heading up there to ski. The first 50 feet of the chute didn't feel like it was a slab, but wind slabs had formed in the narrow terrain. We're all happy no one got hurt and we're taking notes on the lessons learned.

Red Flags
Red flags are simple visual clues that are a sign of potential avalanche danger. Please record any sign of red flags below.
Observer Comments

We saw wind effect on the surrounding peaks, which gave us some pause during our climb but less effect on Raggedtop. We didn't see any shooting cracks or hear whumpfing during our climb.

Weather & Snow Characteristics
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Clear and cold to start, -11F at 11:00 am. It was calm early on, once the clouds started moving in the wind picked up some but wasn't moving snow around yet. It was noticeably warmer once we climbed up out of the valley. By the time we were descending the light had gone flat. 13F at the car when we got back at 330 pm.

Snow surface

Settled powder down low in the meadows, with pockets of wind sculpted snow in the trees. In the bowl the snow was more dense and slabby and made for not the greatest ski out of the bowl.

Photos & Video
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