Skier triggered avalanche resulting in a fatality near Stanford Rocks

Location Name: 
Polaris Point
Blackwood Canyon or Ward Canyon Area
Date and time of avalanche (best estimate if unknown): 
Thu, 03/01/2012 - 13:30
Location Map: 
United States
39° 8' 5.172" N, 120° 12' 15.588" W

Red Flags: 
Recent avalanche activity
Whumphing noises, shooting cracks, or collapsing
Recent loading by new snow, wind, or rain
Terrain Trap

Observation made by: Forecaster
Avalanche Observations
Avalanche Type: 
Trigger type: 
Crown Height: 
2 ft
Weak Layer: 
Avalanche Width: 
Near Treeline
7 600ft.
Bed Surface: 
Other - explain below
Avalanche Length: 
1 235ft.
Number of people caught: 
Number of full burials: 
More detailed information about the avalanche: 
Three skiers skinned up towards Stanford Rocks. When they reached this area where they wanted to ski, they dropped a small piece of cornice onto the slope as a test. This cornice drop released a slab a few inches deep that propagated widely across the slope.  The first skier then started to ski the slope. On his third turn, he triggered a slab avalanche about one foot deep that failed within the storm snow. He grabbed onto a tree and was able to stop himself from being taken down slope. The avalanche then stepped down another 15-20 inches to a lower persistent weak layer and pulled this skier away from his tree and down the slope into the trees below. His partners skied down, saw a ski protruding from the snowpack, and used their beacons to locate the buried skier.  The avalanche buried the skier about three feet deep and wrapped him around some trees. It took them about 3 minutes to get to their buried partner. 

This deep slab avalanche failed within a layer of faceted snow sandwiched between two crusts. This known persistent weak layer is located just below the old/new snow interface.  The avalanche was a size D3 on the destructive potential scale. The fracture was 481 feet wide and ran 1235 feet through the trees downslope. The buried skier was found at least 400 feet from the crown. There is still considerable hangfire in the area and ongoing instability of the persistent weak layer.

The buried skier (29 year old male) suffered severe traumatic injuries during the slide. He died later that evening.

Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of this skier.

Snowpit or crown profile photo or graph: 
Avalanche Photos: 
Avalanche observation video: 

2012 03 02 Polaris Point 009

2012 03 02 Polaris Point 016

Weather Observations
Blowing Snow: 
Air temperature: 
Below Freezing
Wind Speed: 
Air temperature trend: 
Wind Direction: 
Accumulation rate: 
Less than 1 in. per hour
More detailed information about the weather: