Eagle Creek Avalanche

This slab avalanche over 1,000 feet wide was released naturally on Tuesday near the Eagle Creek drainage and classified as “D3” by the Avalanche Center.

Avalanche danger in and around the Wood River Valley remained considerable on Thursday afternoon due to the stress on already-unstable snowpack from Tuesday’s snowfall, the Sawtooth Avalanche Center reported.

It’s still likely for skiers and boarders to trigger large avalanches, even in more sheltered areas with softer snow.

“We keep warning you about dangerous avalanche conditions because it is dangerous out there. We know it’s not the message that you want to hear, but it is the truth,” the Avalanche Center stated Thursday. “Conditions remain dangerous today and we encourage you to be cautious and conservative in your terrain selection. This problem isn't going away overnight.”

“Fresh, very large, natural avalanches” were spotted on Wednesday in the Smokys, Boulders, Pioneers and in mountains near Hailey, the center said.

Avalanche Specialist Chris Lundy shared a number of backcountry safety tips on Wednesday during the center’s “Digging Deeper” series, including these six:

• Always carry backcountry radios.

• Conduct a “pre mortem” assessment. “This is basically doing an investigation before an accident happens,” Lundy explained. “Ask questions: ‘How would the accident report read if I drop into this slope and it avalanches?’ and think about what friends would say: ‘Idiots,’ or ‘They did everything right, but got unlucky.’”

• Define boundaries and rules with partners before heading out into the backcountry. Stick to slope angles less than 30 degrees and avoid rocky, wind-loaded terrain.

• Discuss conditions before terrain choices. “I think it's really important in our type-A, ‘faster further’ backcountry culture to slow down,” Lundy said. “It's so easy just to get in the groove … without discussion about what’s happening.”

• If you’re on the quieter side, challenge yourself to speak up about potential danger. Never override someone else’s ‘no.’

• Play the devil’s advocate. “It's really easy to be the optimist, to convince yourself that things are stable and what you're doing is right,” Lundy said, “but it's also important to have somebody playing the devil's advocate, to be the skeptic in the group and really question why you're making the decisions you are.”

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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