By: randosteve|Posted on: February 24, 2011|Posted in: Avalanche Safety, Prospectors Mountain, The Tetons | 16 comments

So, last week I went on a ski tour to ski Son of Apocalypse Couloir on Prospector’s Mountain. Someone had skied it the day before (meaning we had sloppy seconds – something I hate), but they dropped in not quite from the top, so my partner and I were still able to get some untracked turns in the upper section of the line. The skiing in the couloir was pretty good, with a few inches of snow on top of a solid base. The crux at the bottom was much more filled in since the last time I skied it and no air-time was needed to exit the couloir.

Chris Onufer skis below the slide path.

On the skin in though, we passed by the base of Albright Peak and it’s southeast slope, which rarely gets skied due to avalanche danger. At first glance, I noticed that the area usually filled with moose brush (and moose) was coved in snow. I thought to myself, hmmm – is the snowpack so deep that all the brush and bushes are buried under the snow? With a closer look, I realized that yes, they were covered in snow, but from a massive avalanche that had come off the slope above. (I hope the moose didn’t get buried too!)

Tress broken 10′ above the snow.

As we got closer to the deposition area (now covered in fresh snow) it was obvious that a rather huge slide had occurred here. Large trees were knocked over and some were even broken off about 10 feet  above the snowpack which I thought was rather odd. Did they break off from the wind blast in front of the avalanche, or from the slide debris itself? Either way, I thought that it was probably a D5 sized avalanche (or at least a D4…maybe a D5 goes all the way to Phelps Lake?) and about the maximum sized avalanche that the slope above could produce. No wonder it rarely gets skied!

US Avalanche Destruction Scale

D1 -Sluff or snow that slides less than 50m (150′) of slope distance.
D2 -Small, relative to path.
D3 -Medium, relative to path.
D4 -Large, relative to path.
D5 -Major or maximum, relative to path.

It’s pretty sobering to see massive trees broken like toothpicks from avalanche debris and it for sure makes you think twice about skiing lines with big run outs in questionable conditions. Even though I have always wanted to ski this southeast aspect of Albright, it will definitely take some more stable snow conditions to give me the green light.