Avalanche danger in the snowpack can shift significantly in short periods of time due to a number of factors including wind, new snow, and temperature (among others). That’s why it’s obviously good to keep up with what’s going on out there. Utah, like much of the West, saw a warming trend this week – and things are about to change again with an incoming storm. On Sunday, January 28, a large avalanche was reported in Big Cottonwood Canyon that was illustrated with fairly terrifying footage.
The slide occurred in an area known as Davis Gulch. The skier, according to the Utah Avalanche Center, is Steve. His YouTube handle is Steve Gourley and he posted this unlisted video this week. The footage makes it look as though Steve skied into the slide when in actuality, the entire gully gave away beneath him.
“Three skiers approached Gobblers south summit (10,224) from the north,” wrote the Utah Avalanche Center. “After reaching the summit, skier one skied the ridge to the west of Davis Gulch and radioed when they were in a good spot. Skier two entered Davis Gulch and skied 400 vert pulling out of the run to the northeast. Skier three watched skier two pull up and entered following the same line. Two-hundred (feet) into the run, skier three (Steve) caused a hard slab avalanche that shattered 50 meters below and over to the ridge west of Davis Gulch. Skier two shouted at skier three and then to skier one. Skier one moved to a safer area. Skier two kept eyes on skier three (Steve) and started to ski down the slope. Skier three (Steve) was carried 650 vert reaching a speed of 27 mph, losing a pole and needing to dig out one ski to be free from the debris. After the initial avalanche, the entire west side of the gulch sympathetically released. The final debris pile was way down around 7,800 feet.”
Wow. Couple significant things here: the slide rolled over 2,000 feet down the mountain. Steve Gourley reached a speed of 27 miles per hour while caught. That speed is not insignificant if he were to hit a terrain feature. You can see how fast he was moving, above. And three, the man is extremely lucky. You can read the full report here with photos and maps.
Big Cottonwood Canyon is of course home to Brighton and Solitude Resorts. It really has been a weird winter in the West and the snowpack is following suit. Be sure and check your local avy report before heading out.
Learn more about avalanche safety in The Inertia’s Inspire Courses+ here.