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Alpental under avalanche

It’s an eerie feeling to cross the remnants of a slide. The massive piles of ice lie hauntingly silent in the wake of chaos and destruction. The still debris rests like a winter carcass, a frozen memorial to the force of Nature. And you can’t traverse across it to the pow on the other side, fast enough to escape the subtle fear that wells up inside. Still, it’s not that unusual in the backcountry. And when the fluctuating temps of spring manipulate the conditions out there, the gates often close until the hills have shaken their down their loose layers, or ski patrol bombs them to the floor.

In bounds, though, an avy that consumes an entire run—or runs—hits closer to home, and to the mental core. It’s a slightly deeper grip on the nerves and the “What-ifs” float up from the gut. The gravity of the past event resonates. Profound and—eerie, huh?

That was Saturday at Alpental. Nearly the entirety of International, the steepest run from the top, lay beneath a giant slide, which tore down to the entrance of Snakedance. A dusting of the six inches that fell Friday night covered the remains as if there was nothing to see. And in the flat light of the snowing sky, it was hard to see. But its presence was readily felt. A reminder of spring conditions; of the power of tiny snowflakes.

Be safe out there these days. The powder is still aplenty and if you seek it out safely you can proudly enter summer with that big respectable back leg that garners a wink from those in know.

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