Day 5 – Surprise Bowl

Distance: 7.5 miles

Vertical: 2715'

Last night Frost-on-Rocks (FOR) sent an email saying that there was a big avalanche on Surprise Bowl. I was intrigued. Not so much by the avalanche. I was intrigued because I didn’t think there was enough snow to get into Surprise Bowl. According to FOR, there was plenty of snow.

Although I was tired from two days of heavy trail breaking and lack of ski conditioning, I agreed to go with FOR into Surprise. I wanted to see the big avalanche on a bowl I ski quite often. But I also wanted to go because the snow looked very good. And I know that with a cold night and 24 hours, upside down snow can often turn into perfect snow.

The trail in was perfect. Well covered and nicely packed by previous skiers. FOR said that he met the guy to broke the trail by himself to the base of Surprise Bowl. By the time he got there, he was too tired to climb the bowl and ski it. (We saw him skiing out as we were going in, so he had gone back to get his just desserts.)

A couple other guys broke the trail to the top. Marty, one of the two the broke trail to the top, was there again the next day. He said the trail breaking was exhausting and took a long time. He said they were the ones who probably remotely triggered the avalanche in the north bowl. He said as they neared the top, they heard several loud whumpfs as the snow settled. And then they heard a massive whumpf that shook the snow. But from their position, they couldn’t see anything, so they weren’t sure what happened.

When they got to the top, they decided to ski the ridge rather than the north bowl. As they skied down the ridge, they eventually got a view of the avalanche. In the images below, you can see where their tracks come close to the top fracture line. That’s when they knew what had happened. They were not sure if another skier had triggered the avalanche. They couldn’t see any track leading into the avalanche. Luckily, no skiers were in the avalanche, and it was probably remotely triggered by Marty and his group.

We decided to ski a line similar to the one Marty had skied before, staying on the ridge until it fans into a wide bowl below. It was beautiful skiing. At the top we were thinking one and done. But when we got to the bottom, we decided we had to do another lap. The snow was close to perfect top to bottom.

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