Avalanche risk still high after Crystal Mountain fatality

Dec 13, 2021, 7:19 AM | Updated: 10:31 am
Crystal Mountain avalanche...
(KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

The avalanche risk remains high in the Cascades, a day after a backcountry skier died at Crystal Mountain.

Forecasters with Northwest Avalanche Center and Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol spent this Sunday investigating the fatal avalanche on the ground.

This, as the avalanche risk throughout the North Cascades remains at a three out of five.

Although it has been snowing all day at Snoqualmie Summit, the roads seem to have held up well. Interstate 90 is still bare and wet.

That’s good news because a lot of people have come just to see all of this snow.

A large amount of snow at Snoqualmie Summit means a lot of shoveling for a new worker with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“Yeah, that’s OK,” said Deanna Reynolds, who got her highway worker job last month. “Boy, this snow is really light today.”

As for the shoveling work?

“Oh, it’s OK,” she said, smiling. “You know, it comes with the territory.”

And it was the beautiful terrain that so many stopped to see. The visitors included Chris Perry and her daughter, Amanda, who were both driving back home from Pullman.

“Loving it,” Perry said. “We decided to stop and play in the snow on our way home.”

“Just walk around,” said Amanda, about their plans. “I wanted to throw a snowball at her but she said no.”

But there can be a dark side to the heavy snowfall, too.

The recent heavy snowfall turned deadly at the Crystal Mountain resort Saturday. A 66-year-old backcountry skier died when his party of six triggered an avalanche in the Silver Basin, an area the resort had made off-limits for fear of an avalanche.

Now forecasters from Northwest Avalanche Center and Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol are investigating to figure out what went wrong.

“Even though the bulk of the storm is over, we are still experiencing kind of that elevated level of caution and avalanche danger overall,” said Dennis D’Amico, NWAC’s lead forecaster. “So, not just for the Crystal area, but for really the entire Cascade region.”

And the danger is not just up high. An SUV spun out of control on I-90 just west of the summit. Adriane Lynch, who lives in Spokane, witnessed it.

“So, we knew better than to drive speedily in these conditions,” Lynch said. “And he was just going shoom! And that was it.”

That’s how quickly accidents can happen.

There is good news for skiers: The Summit at Snoqualmie will open Tuesday and Wednesday for passholders. The resort’s operations will be limited but you can still ski.

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Avalanche risk still high after Crystal Mountain fatality