In-bounds slides making news: rotten layers, big snow

Courtesy avlanachemapping.orgIf there were ever a time to educate mountain staff, the media and guests about the basics of snow science, this could be it. Following a sparse early season, heavy snowfall in late December has loaded the weak early-season layers. Slides within area boundaries at Snowbird, Jackson and Squaw have recently claimed lives, and out-of-bounds, the toll has been higher.

The media, never known for searching out upbeat news, is bound to seize on this recent collection of avalanches as crisis-worthy. As in-bounds fatalities are so very rare, our media so alarmist and our lawyers so litigious, someone, somewhere, is likely going to want to point a finger at the areas, global warming, patrol, and perhaps the average guest's absolute ignorance of the outdoors.

The story has yet to appear on the wires, but this is the beginning of the alarm cycle, not the end. Snow continues to fall, control work continues daily, and demand for terrain escalates at this time every year.

Stay tuned. Visit http://www.avalanche.org/