Highlands Ridge avalanche near Aspen

Discussion in 'General Skiing' started by Tricia, Mar 12, 2019.

  1. Tricia

    Tricia The Velvet Hammer Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    I know you've probably seen a ton of images of this avalanche but here is the report from CAIC

    The avalanche had a crown a mile long and came down with such force, it crossed the creek at the valley bottom and came up the other side, downing trees.
    They are calling this a landscape altering avalanche season.
    Highlands ridge avalanche crown.jpg

    • Avalanche Description: Highlands Ridge released naturally. Not a path or two off the ridge but everything from the Five Fingers to the K Chutes. The K Chutes ran as big as I've seen them go, and that was just a small portion. ALL of the Five Fingers Ran. While this is multiple start zones that feed multiple feeder paths, they all share a common runout. This all looks like it was one major event with the crown line connecting multiple paths and breaking a mile wide or more. The avalanche ran full path (3000 ft plus) taking out hundreds if not thousands of trees, and and damaged an unoccupied home near Conundrum Creek even though it was protected by defensive structures. The debris ran across the creek and and ran uphill several hundred vertical feet on the opposite side, taking out trees even on the uphill side across the creek. This avalanche terrain is predominantly east-facing, with some slopes facing southeast and some facing northeast. There was also a very large natural avalanche on a northwest facing slope in Maroon Bowl.
    Highlands Ridge valley.jpg
     
  2. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    Garrett Peak next to Snowmass avalanche sometime Wednesday evening. The crown was TWO MILES wide!
     
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  3. dbostedo

    dbostedo Asst. Gathermeister-- Jackson Hole 2020 Moderator Team Gathermeister

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    Hmm.... Highlands Ridge, adjacent to Highlands Bowl... perhaps Aspen Highlands can make use of the now cleared area and expand. ;)

    It's still hard to wrap my head around a bunch of sliding snow taking down so many trees. Even after seeing the result so many times this season.
     
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  4. skix

    skix Getting off the lift Skier

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    This just amazes me. It ran several hundred feet uphill and destroyed trees on the other side of the creek !!!
     
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  5. dbostedo

    dbostedo Asst. Gathermeister-- Jackson Hole 2020 Moderator Team Gathermeister

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    I believe this is the same house that's in the pic, from an older satellite view... you can see there used to be a lot of trees and a parking lot for a hiking trail up the valley.

    upload_2019-3-17_9-49-48.png
     
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  6. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    Five Fingers is a good portion of the crown, and is a place that a fair number of folk ski from the top of Highlands Bowl. It can be rather dangerous as it is a slide path.
     
  7. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    Here's some photos of the Garrett Peak slide.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  8. palikona

    palikona Putting on skis Skier

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    Fascinating. Apparently the Conundrum Trailhead is current under 60’ of snow from this slide
     
  9. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

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    How does this relate to Highlands Bowl? This is beyond the skier's right ridge of the bowl?
     
  10. Ken_R

    Ken_R Living the Dream Skier

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    :eek::eek::eek:
     
  11. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    At the top of the bowl, you can hike along the ridge to Five Fingers. It is maybe a couple of hundred yards.
     
  12. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

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    I guess so are the fallen trees.

    Hey @dbostedo , you have one of your maps?
     
  13. dbostedo

    dbostedo Asst. Gathermeister-- Jackson Hole 2020 Moderator Team Gathermeister

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    Highlands Bowl at the top, with the ridge running out from it. The trailhead parking lot is the little marker in the middle of the left side. You can also see it closer in the pic I posted above.

    upload_2019-3-19_7-27-20.png


    And here's a pic I took at the 2016 Gathering, from Ajax, looking at Highlands Bowl and the ridge to the left.

    Aspen Gathering 020916 077 ACR Conv Pano.jpg
     
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  14. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

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    IMG_6117.JPG
    Aha, very clear now. It is indeed a very large ridge with lots of snow storage potential.
     
  15. Fuller

    Fuller T shirts & flip flops... Skier

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    I question the wisdom of building a zillion dollar house at the base of 5 avalanche chutes - fortified or not.
     
  16. dbostedo

    dbostedo Asst. Gathermeister-- Jackson Hole 2020 Moderator Team Gathermeister

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    ^^^
    I guess it's kind of like all the stuff that gets built on so-called "100-year flood plains". You're taking the risk that it's infrequent enough that it won't affect you.
     
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  17. raytseng

    raytseng Out on the slopes Skier

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    the flood thing is different mainly due to the lobbying and politics around flood insurance,
    where despite the high risk, the majority of the consequence is covered essentially by the american taxpayer, so go ahead and rebuild after your house is destroyed for free.
    I heard an indepth review on a podcast (freakonomics or planet money), if you're interested check it out.
    To an economist this is a very inefficient horrible program to achieve stated goals, but does show that people are reacting to the policy and incentive in their best interests just as straightforward simple classical economic theory predicts they would do.
    Here is a quick link
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Flood_Insurance_Program

    I wonder if some clever lawyer can finagle frozen water as a flood and get this same benefit, lol
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2019
  18. dbostedo

    dbostedo Asst. Gathermeister-- Jackson Hole 2020 Moderator Team Gathermeister

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    Ha! For the home owner in the valley there, they were obviously aware of the risk, since they had the avalanche barrier/wedge built. So I wonder if they were also insured specifically against it?
     
  19. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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  20. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

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    Good article.
    -----------
    The wall suffered no visible damage and it deflected most of the high-density lower layer of snow and debris in the avalanche. Some damage was sustained on the west end of the house. Reinforced glass held but an entire window frame was dislodged. Part of an upper-story wall was punched in but the house apparently didn’t suffer any structural damage.
    ...

    CAIC rated the slide a 4.5 out of 5 on the avalanche destruction scale. Mears said the destructive potential is difficult to assess. One way would be to return when the snow melts and date the age of the large conifers the avalanche took out, he said.

    While many avalanche experts don’t feel it’s possible to have a D5 avalanche in the Continental U.S., Mears said the Conundrum slide could well qualify.
    -------

    Gunnison County has a 300 year standard for avalanches. That expert thinks Pitkin should change from their 100yr standard.
     

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