Synopsis: While three out of five members of our party are digging a pit, a skier from another party cuts the slope above, triggering a size 1 avalanche. We get out of the way and are unharmed. Obscenities are exchanged.
On Saturday, Glen, Andrew, Steffen, Jaap, and I went up the Duffey to ski at Cayoosh. The avalanche forecast was considerable-considerable-moderate, so we started the day with some expectation of possible natural and skier-triggered avalanches.
We followed an established skin track, which followed the logging road and then made wide switchbacks up the Ottoman run: a wide open slide path up a ridge with a large cornice hanging over the top. Several parties had stopped at various points on the slope, including three splitboarders who were stopped under the cornice for a very long time. We decided to cross the slope one-by-one, and then broke a fresh trail up through the trees on the far side of the run.
About halfway up to the top of the ridge, we broke out of the trees to dig a pit. We discussed the hazard posed by this position. I felt that it was reasonable, being relatively sheltered and off the main run. There was a bit of a gully above to our left, but we were well out of the path of any slides that might come down it. Glen and I started digging, with Steffen close by, and Andrew and Jaap watching from the trees.
As we were digging, I heard somebody yell “Run, run!” Glen ran past me to the right, and I turned to follow. The slide was slow and wet enough, and we were close enough to its edge to get fully out of the way before it passed. A splitboarder had just come down the gully and made a big sweeping turn towards us, cutting away the slope above.
The avalanche was a point sluff which had stepped down to 50cm. It was roughly 10m wide at its widest, and flowed about 20m down slope from the trigger point. The debris was full of big, consolidated chunks typical of a wet slab.
Once we were out of danger, a shouting match began. “You’re responsible for your own safety”, he yelled. He was annoyed that we had been in the way of his cut. We were annoyed because we’d nearly just been buried. We shouted for several minutes before he gave a sarcastic “good day” and went on his way.
We continued to ski mellow powder lines in the trees. We observed debris from several natural avalanches covering established skin tracks in multiple areas. We spent the night soaking in the Skookumchuk hotsprings, discussing what we might have done differently.