Skier, Snowmobiler Narrowly Escape Separate Avalanches in Tahoe Backcountry

As snow continues to fall heavily on the Tahoe region, the Sierra Avalanche Center has been busy monitoring avalanche activity and danger in the backcountry. This past weekend, two separate avalanches put a skier and snowmobiler in severe danger.

The first avalanche was triggered on Nipple Peak in the Carson Pass region as two skiers were skinning up the mountain. When the large slab gave way, one of the skiers was swept away. The prepared skier deployed his airbag and was able to stay close to the top of the snow’s surface as the avalanche stopped at the bottom of the hill.

Skier-triggered avalanche in the Carson pass are. Photo from Sierra Avalanche Center.

The other avalanche was triggered by a snowmobiler in Little Truckee Summit region. After the group was rerouted from their initial plan in order to avoid exposed rocks in the mountain, the snowmobiler entered a dangerous area.

“I popped out of the trees onto an exposed face,” said the snowmobiler in the incident report. “I immediately recognized the hazard, but immediately saw the snow fracture above me and propagate across the ridge.”

A snowmobiler triggered this avalanche in the Little Truckee Summit region. Photo from Sierra Avalanche Center.

What came next was a 280-foot avalanche that forced the snowmobiler to flee, but he was eventually caught by the falling snow. He was thrown from his snowmobile and buried helmet deep into the snow. His companions rushed to his aid and helped him out of the snow. They were also able to recover his snowmobile buried 6-feet under the avalanche.

With new snow in the Sierra, considerable avalanche remains in the mountains. Know the dangers, be prepared with avalanche equipment and don’t venture into vulnerable areas.

“Whumpfing, shooting cracks, recent avalanches, and unstable snow pit test results are all indications of unstable snow in the area,” said the Sierra Avalanche Center. “Do not underestimate potential avalanche size, potential run out distance, or the hazard from connected terrain above or to the side. Think bigger avalanche than expected.”

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