Two men were swept up in an out-of-bounds avalanche they triggered off the back side of Bald Mountain on Sunday, according to the Sawtooth Avalanche Center. Neither was seriously injured, according to Scott Savage, director of the center.
One skier and one snowboarder were caught and carried 100 to 150 yards down the northwestern aspect of Baldy, outside of Sun Valley Resort’s ski area boundary, reports the Idaho Mountain Express. The skier was fully buried, but able to dig himself out in about 25 minutes, Savage said. The snowboarder’s head and torso were buried beneath the snow. He, too, was able to extricate himself.
“This was an extremely close call,” Savage told the Idaho Mountain Express on Monday afternoon. “These individuals are fortunate they were not seriously injured or killed. The terrain in this area is heavily treed, so most people caught in avalanches here sustain significant trauma. Picture riding a bike downhill at 30 mph and jumping off into a forest—it usually doesn’t end well.”
The popular out-of-bounds pitch known as Bruce’s Chute—located in the zone commonly called The Burn, for the charred timber left behind by the Castle Rock Fire in 2007—can be accessed via chairlift, but isn’t patrolled, monitored or mitigated like areas inside the ropes. Since it’s so close to the safety of the resort, so-called “sidecountry” terrain can give skiers and riders a false sense of security, Savage said.
“Out-of-bounds and sidecountry terrain has a dangerous, backcountry snowpack, but it can be difficult for people to recognize how different conditions can be just a few feet outside ski area boundaries,” Savage said. “Safely riding in backcountry avalanche terrain—including areas right outside ski area boundaries—requires specialized education, equipment, and experience.”
For more information, including daily forecasts and updates, go to the Sawtooth Avalanche Center’s website at www.sawtoothavalanche.com.
“Avalanches big enough to bury and kill people will remain likely while the weak layers of snow near the ground adjust to the weight of all the new snow that has fallen in January,” Savage said. “It will take days or weeks for many slopes to stabilize, especially if storms continue to move through our area.”