21-01-29 Scorpion Avalanche

A skier-caused avalanche on Bald Mountain's popular out-of-bounds "Scorpion" zone hit three houses on Skiway Drive on Friday, Jan. 29.

The Sawtooth Avalanche Center extended its avalanche warning until Sunday morning for much of its forecast area in response to the feet of snow—and a slew of slides—that hit the region this week. 

The warning, which was initially scheduled to expire Saturday morning, covers the Wood River Valley, Galena Summit and its eastern mountains, plus the Sawtooth and Western Smoky Zones. 

"Heavy snowfall, wind-drifting, and warming temperatures have created very dangerous avalanche conditions," the Avalanche Center stated on Saturday. "Human-triggered avalanches are almost certain. Stay off of and out from below all steep slopes. Avalanches can be triggered remotely—from below, above, and to the sides of steeper terrain."

The southwestern storm cycle this week centered snowfall on the Wood River Valley, making the SAC's most populous zone "ground zero" for accumulation, Forecaster Ethan Davis told the Express on Friday. In the past seven days, Sun Valley's Bald Mountain received 65 inches of snow, according to the resort, more than doubling the year-to-date snowpack for the ski area. 

Citing "snow safety," Sun Valley closed Baldy at 2 p.m. on Friday, two hours early. The area opened as usual on Saturday, though avalanche mitigation delayed the opening of the bowls and Seattle Ridge. Saturday day tickets are sold out, the resort said.

"The Wood River Valley is ground zero right now," Davis said just after the closure. "This is the hotspot—this is where snow totals are the highest. We thought if anywhere was going to go off, it would be north-facing slopes in the Wood River Valley."

They were right. Skiers triggered three out-of-bounds avalanches on the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain Friday: One on Scorpion, an oft-skied face to the east of the resort runs; another in The Burn, a popular zone to the west; and a third in an area known as Double Ought. 

Sources saw a skier exiting The Burn slide in Board Ranch after he was caught and carried on Friday, Davis said. A party of two was caught on Double Ought, where one member of the party sustained an injury and lost a ski in the slide. The other managed to hike up to a patrol shack on Baldy to get a replacement ski so they could get off the mountain, Davis said.

The skier-caused avalanche on Scorpion hit three houses on Skiway Drive, Ketchum spokeswoman Lisa Enourato told the Mountain Express.

All skiers involved were "out and safe," Davis said. But, with heavy snow and warming temperatures, sources spotted many more avalanches around the Valley Saturday morning. 

"For sure, the avalanche danger will be elevated for the foreseeable future," Davis said.

Email the writer: mdee@mtexpress.com

Load comments