Skiers Trigger, then Avoid, Huge Avalanche During Backcountry Tour on Mount Mansfield, VT

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I’ve been asked to go into more detail about exactly what human factors caused us to end up triggering a 1300’ slide that almost hit the road and that we narrowly avoided being caught in. (It’s gonna be a long one) F.A.C.E.T.S Familiarity – This was one of the biggest factors of the day. In Vermont 98% of the time the terrain is not avalanche terrain. Walking around through the woods with a beacon makes no sense. Nearly a full season of this mentality had us very complacent. While beacon, shove, probe may not have actually been a help for the specific incident (had someone been caught they would have been dragged over a cliff a died, and not needed to be dug out), however just turning on our beacon would have made us think about avalanches and the risk they pose. Acceptance – maybe somewhat, we were all having a great time and pushing each other along. Not one of the larger issues that day though. Consistency – This was a large factor during the day. We had a plan and made a few wrong turns, saw small signs of instability, but we kept pushing. Our plan B options were pretty nonexistent. Not once during the day did we talk about alternatives. Expert Halo – 1 in the party had been to the line before, there was a bit of a breakdown in communication leading up to getting to the chute and we were following him without asking our own question or making our own decisions. Additionally, I think there may have been some expert halo around me, having significant experience in avalanche terrain, I could see others in the group differing to my judgement (and I wasn’t particularly on my game that day) Scarcity – The day started with a bit of powder fever, we sprinted off the Gondi trying to get to the summit of Mansfield first (this was not spoken, but definitely unspoken). By the time we were at the chute the powder fever had definitely subsided, but it set the wrong tone for the day right off the bat. Additional contributing factors – We took the lift up in the morning. Had we skinned we certainly would have seen more signs of instability. Our group had a very wide range of experience which can create a range of goals and expectations for the day. #skitheeast #avalanchevt

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Monday afternoon, SnowBrains’ own Aaron Rice, and Cyril Brunner geared up for an evening of backcountry skiing on Mount Mansfield, only hours after they nearly got buried in an avalanche Sunday, reports wcax.com.

Whilst testing the backcountry snow, an avalanche formed on their chute;

“When I turned around I could see that the whole slope had just gone behind me, and all I saw was my friends who are just staring at me and staring at the slope go down,” Brunner said. “Two of us were looking straight down the whole chute, which is almost 1,200 or 1,300-feet long. And we just saw the avalanche gain speed and a huge powder cloud form. So it was going,” Rice added.

The skiers say they relied on their years of experience to get to the side of the trail, and to safety.

“I flipped from this relaxed East Coast mode to like, oh, this is avalanche terrain, like we have to get out of here now,” Rice said.

 

 

For these skiers, it was an eye-opening experience of how quick Mother Nature can come crashing down.

“I would have probably been thrown through some trees. I would have certainly gone over a hundred-foot waterfall and been buried in a significant amount of snow and I wouldn’t be here today,” Brunner said.


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