Avalanche: Sitka

Location: Verstovia Bowl

Route & General Observations

** Posting this retrospectively for posterity ** A reminder that this small WNW facing rollover in Verstovia Bowl is a small terrain feature that is just on the edge of low angle terrain and higher angle avalanche terrain. It can and does produce slides.

Avalanche Details
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Trigger SnowboarderAvalanche Type Soft Slab
Aspect West NorthwestElevation 2300ft
Slope AngleunknownCrown Depthunknown
WidthunknownVertical Rununknown
Near Miss / Accident Details
Number Caught/Carried? 1Number Partially Buried?0
Number Fully Buried?0Number Injured?0
Number Fatalities?0  
Avalanche Details

The snow ontop of the thick Christmas Eve rain crust did not have slab like properties, so therefore was largely presenting as a minimal dry loose avalanche hazard with some skier-triggered sluffing. The winds from the SE, however, were actively transporting snow along the ridgeline, and while most all of the snow in the bowl was soft and unaffected by the wind, this mid-slope rollover has enough prominence that it caught the winds coming over the ridge from the SE and loaded the WNW side of this feature with snow creating a wind slab ontop of the Christmas Eve crust.

Four parties were skiing in the zone, and some groups were stepping out into the avalanche terrain beneath the peak. On the last run for a group of two snowboarders, one rider descended the rollover and as they turned along the convexity at the top of the rollover, they triggered the wind slab, which then entrained the dry loose snow in its path below creating a relatively moderate sized slide for the scale of this feature. The rider was caught and slowly carried to the toe of the debris. The avalanche was not big enough for them to have been buried, and the rider was able to stand up and ride out. (R2.5/D1)

Events of the day

Familiarity, perceiving this rollover not as an avalanche hazard, and existing tracks on the rollover feature may have contributed to the rider's decision to descend this terrain. This feature sits right on the boundary of where people ski low angle terrain or commit to the steeper, more obvious avalanche terrain. It is a good reminder that this small rollover feature can and does produce avalanches. Though we were not involved in this slide, we reflected that this was approached as a fairly typical day trip to Verstovia Bowl, and familiarity of terrain and complacency with the small terrain feature contributed to this incident. It was an avalanche that any of us could have triggered.

Rescue events


Red Flags
Red flags are simple visual clues that are a sign of potential avalanche danger. Please record any sign of red flags below.
Observer Comments

Pertinent observations: New snow. Wind actively transporting snow from SE. Facet layer from a recent cold snap that was between the newly fallen snow and the thick Christmas Eve rain crust. One group reported minimal sluffing in steeper terrain.

Weather & Snow Characteristics
Please provide details to help us determine the weather and snowpack during the time this observation took place.

20cm new snow in last 24hrs. Winds from SE observed moving snow on ridgeline.

Snow surface

New snow.


110cm total depth. ~20cm new snow on top of ~10cm layer of faceted snow on top of rain crust from Christmas Eve rain event. The snow ontop of the Christmas Eve crust did not have slab-like properties where it was not affected by wind.

Photos & Video
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