Sunday 20 December 2020

Skier killed by avalanche in the Friendly Finish area of the Anthracite Range, Colorado.

A skier has died after being caught in an avalanch in the Friendly Finish area of the Anthracite Range, in Gunnison County, Colorado, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. The incident happened on Friday 18 December 2020, and was reported by two other skiers, who had discussed decent routes with the victim before decending the slope, and realised when they reached the bottom that the area where he had intended to ski had been hit by an avalanch. The victim's body was recovered by local volunteers and Crested Butte Search and Rescue. His identity has not yet been released.

Image showing the crown of the avalanche, centre right of the photograph, below the rocky ridge. The debris washed through the small sparse trees below. Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Avalanches are caused by the mechanical failure of snowpacks; essentially when the weight of the snow above a certain point exceeds the carrying capacity of the snow at that point to support its weight. This can happen for two reasons, because more snow falls upslope, causing the weight to rise, or because snow begins to melt downslope, causing the carrying capacity to fall. Avalanches may also be triggered by other events, such as Earthquakes or rockfalls. Contrary to what is often seen in films and on television, avalanches are not usually triggered by loud noises. Because snow forms layers, with each layer typically occurring due to a different snowfall, and having different physical properties, multiple avalanches can occur at the same spot, with the failure of a weaker layer losing to the loss of the snow above it, but other layers below left in place - to potentially fail later.

Diagrammatic representation of an avalanche, showing how layering of snow contributes to these events. Expedition Earth.

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