It’s not just your imagination, 2022-23 has been an excellent snow year so far. The West in general is still dry as ever, but it is nice to at least take a moment to enjoy the snow we do have.
In California, reeling from a couple years of iffy snow and persistent drought, it’s a relief to see mountains like Mammoth are set to get ungodly amounts of snow, with 92” inches of blissful white set to fall in the area over the next ten days! Bear Mountain just outside of LA has gotten well over 4 feet, and, moving east a bit, Utah has been reliably inundated for pretty much the whole winter. That trend is carrying over into spring. If you’ve got some PTO days built up, maybe now is the time to cash them out! Failing that, you could come down with a mysterious cold that requires a heaping dose of pow to cure it, though we won’t accept responsibility for any loss of job that may occur through these actions.
While this is all most excellent, it is important to keep in mind when it’s absolutely puking from the sky is that certain hazards cease to be trivial.
Tree wells have claimed many a skier, beginner and expert alike. What is a tree well? It’s what it sounds like – a deep area underneath a tree that you can easily fall into. Like many other types of wells, it’s not one you want to fall in. They can be deceptive, too – in addition to hiding the tree well, low hanging branches can prevent snow from collecting at the bottom of the tree, which leads to a big ol’ hole that someone might fall in.
How to avoid them? First off, you can simply stay out of the trees, and boom, problem solved. But, as we’ve profiled before, the best snow can be living in the trees long after it has been skied off the slopes, so there are plenty of good reasons to venture in there. The best thing to do when there is an elevated risk of danger is simple – ski with a friend, or multiple friends! You can even work out special calls for each other if you like, and become like the many creatures of the forest.
One of the things we perhaps take for granted while skiing is that the experience is going to be safe. Steep, beautiful bowls like those boasted by Jackson Hole or Snowbird beckon to all of us, but they require some explosives in the morning to get them in a safe place. It’s tough to identify a situation outside of war where loud booms are met with cheers, but then again, isn’t that a better use for ammunition anyway? (Provided it’s not blowing up the mountainside of course).
However, even with these safety measures in place, inbounds avalanches can still occur with lethal consequences. Your author is not about to provide recommendations on how to survive in an avalanche, as that is purely up to fate, but you can prevent that situation entirely by being aware that the possibility exists in the first place, and go by a simple rule that the kind tram operators at Jackson will remind you of: “If you don’t know, don’t go!”
Chunder on Groomers
Ok, this one is perhaps less deadly, but it can still be a royal pain. After the fun and excitement of the initial, untracked run down the mountain, and by the time the hordes of powder seekers have had their way with it, the piste can be an unpleasant place to ski. Combine that with poor visibility and it’s a recipe to get rocked unexpectedly. It’s at these times that you can remember, there is always dignity in doing a snowplow or a falling leaf to get down a run. If you’re tired, you’re tired, and it’s generally not a good idea to force that when the conditions are variable – there’s no point in ruining then end of a perfect day by coming down hard or twisting your leg, and being put out of commission for the rest of the year. A warm, cozy lodge with a beverage has its own allure on a powder day, and it’s important to know when to call it, so you can enjoy it without regret.