The deadly avalanche that killed three people at Silver Mountain Resort in Idaho last week was triggered by skiers, a preliminary report finds.
The report also found that the resort’s ski patrol had done everything they could to mitigate the danger.
“They had done their control work just like they always do,” said Jeff Thompson, the director of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center. “In fact, I think they did more than they normally do to open that slope. Sometimes explosives and mitigation practices aren’t enough. Mother Nature has a mind of her own.”
Three skiers died, two others were fully buried and rescued, and two more injured in the slide on Wardner Peak on January 7th.
According to a survivor of the avalanche, ski patrol allowed about a dozen skiers and snowboarders to pack a trail through fresh powder traversing beneath Wardner Peak reports The Spokesman. Their movement triggered the size 3 avalanche.
According to his preliminary report, the 300-foot-wide avalanche released about 90-feet from the top of Wardner Peak, tumbling down the ski run called 16 to 1. Despite lots of snow in the previous days, the avalanche started deep within the snowpack on a buried layer of what’s called “surface hoar.” Once the snow started sliding, the avalanche traveled more than 900 feet down the 35-degree slope.
A further, more detailed report, of how Silver Mountain’s ski patrol, volunteers and staff responded to the avalanche, in addition to the specific mitigation techniques used and decisions made, will be released by Silver Mountain sometime in the “next couple weeks,” said Silver Mountain spokesman Gus Colburn.