Yesterday, a skier triggered a thin, slab avalanche in sheltered terrain on a north-facing slope in the Gunnison backcountry forecast zone. The skier was surprised but unharmed.
The avalanche entrained loose faceted snow and ran to the valley floor through gladed terrain with impressive momentum. This scenario could read very differently as evidenced by a recent snowmobiler fatality in Montana involving a small slide in gladded terrain.
Small avalanches associated with terrain traps like trees, creek beds, and cliffs can be dangerous and fatal. Regardless of the zone-wide danger rating, or if we are dealing with thin slab avalanches or loose snow avalanches, we have to evaluate each slope uniquely. Along with stability, another inherent component of this avalanche danger evaluation includes consideration of consequences and exposure. We are the element at risk.
Please stay safe and your observations are valuable and greatly appreciated.