Though the calendar may be signaling the beginning of ski season at Tuckerman Ravine, that doesn’t mean conditions at the famous Mount Washington cirque are necessarily safe.
Two skiers found out the hard way this weekend. Fortunately, they escaped the incident uninjured, according to officials.
The two were very fortunate in one respect: They had a clear slide all the way to the bottom.
In an advisory Monday, the Mount Washington Avalanche Center said the skiers walked “away with no injuries” as a result of that object-free slide.
“The result could have been much different if this had occurred in Left Gully or Huntington, places that have bushes or rocks to contend with,” the center said.
Officials had warned over the weekend that a snow melt-and-refreeze event late last week had resulted in refrozen hard snow in the ravines.
“If you’re venturing into the terrain today in hopes of spring skiing, you will likely struggle to find soft snow,” the center said Sunday. “The firm conditions mean that long sliding falls are a key hazard to consider today.”
The center said that those concerns remained Tuesday.
Mountain guide David Lottmann, who captured and posted the video of Sunday’s fall on his website, told CBS Boston that skiers were scarce Sunday due to the conditions, so he got a bad feeling when he saw the pair up on the popular headwall.
“The snow is still in a mid-winter state up there; it hasn’t turned into a spring snow pack,” Lottmann said. “The spider senses went up on the back of my neck and I thought okay I’m going to start recording.”
Lottmann said he was teaching a mountaineering course nearby when it happened.
“It is really dramatic to watch,” he said. “Then they basically stood up and brushed themselves off and were good to go.”
In a post on fall prevention on his site, Northeast Alpine Start, Lottmann noted that the internet is littered with videos of spectacular falls at Tuckerman Ravine.
The Associated Press wrote in 2015 that “equipment shedding wipe-outs” often get bigger cheers from the crowds of thrill-seeking skiers who trek to the headwall each spring than do the successful runs. While many get up unscathed, injuries can range from “snow rash” to broken bones to, in rare instances, death.
In 2012, two hikers were killed in separate long, sliding falls on Tuckerman Ravine. In at least one of the incidents, the Avalanche Center said that “hard and icy” snow conditions were a factor.