On the Hill: Wet slab danger at ski resorts under review
November 4, 2005
DILLON, Colo. – Forest Service rangers on Friday were well into an investigation of the threat of wet slab avalanches at Colorado resorts and hope to have a review done by Dec. 1, when the ski season gets serious.The review was ordered after a wet slab avalanche on an Arapahoe Basin trail killed a skier on May 20, the first such death at a Colorado resort in 30 years.Little understood and rarely studied, wet slab avalanches are most likely to occur during warm weather when the snowpack doesn’t freeze hard during the night. It creates instability between the layers of snow, and then the lower layer can no longer support the layer above.Regional Forester Rick Cables ordered the review.”The goal is to look at [the plans] and see how well they address not only wet snow and wet slab conditions, but all conditions. If we find there is a problem, we’ll go back and address it. In light of the accident, we’re going to look at everything,” said Joe Foreman, the Forest Service’s winter sports expert in the eastern White River National Forest.Foreman said he has reviewed the Arapahoe Basin plan and is satisfied with it.Aspen-based snow ranger Jim Stark is conducting a similar review of resort avalanche plans in the western White River.Stark said Aspen areas have special warm weather plans because they are at lower elevations, where warmer temperatures are more likely.