Ever Experienced Thundersnow While On The Slopes?
September 12, 2007
I started this thread to generate some discussion about Thundersnow, and how to deal with it!!?? Initial discussion was in the "I Skied Yesterday" thread.
Thundersnow! On one of my trips to Park City back in the mid-seventies, during an otherwise snowy and full of wonderful conditions ski week, I encountered thunder, lightening, and a major dump of snow - a white out due to falling flakes. The four of us skiing together were astonished but unsure what to do! Go into the woods? Stay on the slope? Did I say it was thundering and lightening just like the center of a summer thunder boomer? We even heard(?)lightening strike a nearby tree, and the resultant fall. First we removed our skis and poles figuring that metal and lightening were real good bedfellows! Then we got to the side of the trail, trying to get out of the way of anyone attempting to bomb to the bottom (which we had rejected as a plan)! After about 20 minutes it was over, multiple inches had fallen!
Anybody else ever experienced such drastic conditions? What did you do? Anyone know the best/safest thing to do?
Hey Colonel, I just replied on the other thread, we must have crossed paths in the ether.
I had another equally scary experience with a thunderstorm on Mt. Washington NH. I was climbing the Gulf of Slides alone with skis on my back, a steel ice axe in my hand and steel crampons on my feet. I was about 100 ft. from the top when a bolt struck a rock very close by. It was mid May, warm, and the sky was just gray with a light drizzle prior to the event. The Gulf of slides faces east so the mountain blocked the view to the west where the storms come from. My hands were shaking from adrenaline and it took forever to clumsily remove the crampons, get the skis on and head down. A front was expected that day after dark but it had arrived many hours early. Now I carry a NOAA radio with a weather alert that turns on automatically if anything like that is spotted in the area.
This was well above timberline so there was no place to hide. I was the highest object in the vicinity. There were just a few low wind tortured shrubs (Krummholz), and rocks. In general the best place to hide is near but not next to a tree and not one of the taller trees in the area. I should not have put skis on either. I should have ditched all the metal objects, moved away from them and stayed low until the storm had passed. Hindsight is always 20/20.
We had it here at 7S in the 05/06 season. Hammered like mad for 20 minutes, lifts stopped at first boom. Last time I witnessed that was Colorado around 1994. Freaky, but really cool.
I think the storm I remember last was either the same one as Taylormatt or even a little further back in time at HV. Myself, my cousin, and my friend were going up the sunset triples during a moderate snowstorm. It was about 630 or 7pm at night, so completely pitch black out besides the slope lights. We had planned on skiing most of the night til at least 9-930 when all of a sudden, the heavans opened and we couldn't see each other on the lift. We initially thought this was a blessing with all the new snow yet a hard run to then take, but well, it was southwestern PA skiing and we didn't care and decided it was for the best and we would ski through it anyway. S we get about have the way up the lift over top of Stingray, when all of a sudden, the lift stops. Well, being on the triples we decided it was just some SPORE (Stupid People On Rental Equipment) who couldn't get on the lift right. But we were wrong. A few seconds after the lift stopped, there was a flash of lightning and then the slope lights all went out. So, at which moment, we were too high to jump, let alone see where we were falling, so we were stranded on the lift in Thundersnow. We sat there for about 10 minutes during the storm without the lift running anywhere. I was a little scary to be in but eventually the power got back on and the lift ran us up to the top. Now, the next stupid thing after being on the lift during the storm, we decided not to wait out the storm, we skied down in the dark to the lodge, which still did not have any power. Yes, it was a dumb idea, but we did it anyway.
That was my experience with Thundersnow.
I *think* I may have encountered it on my one and only trip to Snowbird in March of 82. In a total whiteout and very disoriented, I had found my way to the base complex when I heard that bowling-ball-down-the-alley rumbling that thunder makes. I saw no lightning (I could barely see anything) so it may have been an avalanche charge or an avalanche itself. I don't think so though.
Snowbasin, 2002, a week after the winter olympics.
About 1pm, we were working back from Strawberry, I was with 2 skiers, one was pretty good but on too-narrow skis the other didn't really know how to deal with powder at all so I told her to stay with us.
(BOOM BOOM) closer, much closer, can't see where it is tho.
I'm on the rock spine skier's left of Strawberry tram, just below the first trees, so feeling a little bit safer, waiting for the two following me to come along so we can follow the green neon signs down. Well, Mikey shows up but there's no sign whatsoever of the beginner lady. Uh-oh.
(BOOM) overhead now. Tram is obviously shut down. Crack. Where is she? I tell Mikey to stay put and start herringboning back up along his track.
Wind kicks up, the whiteout is now quite a bit horizontal.
(BOOM) really loud. I feel stupid, crazy, idiotic, for climbing back up. She's got dark clothes on; I can't see a flipping thing, my herringbone tracks are filling up so finding Mikey again is chancy, how stupid am I?
There she is! Lying flat on the snow, just under the summit rocks, trying to get her skis off? she sees me coming up and yells at me that she's going to wait for a patrol sled? Like WTF? How in the blazes does she think they're gonna get up here? And what is she going to do till then?
(BOOOOOOOM) Right. She does NOT want to put her skis back on. OK. Fine. I wasn't panicking. Much. (BOOOM) I don't want to stand up either. I tell her we've gotta get Mikey outta there so slide down to where he is. Fine, we slide on butts ~2 feet. Another 3 feet. Rock. Slide left. OK. Rock. (BOOM) my hands full of my and her gear I'm barely controling this.
Mikey is still sitting at the ridge. Except there's a cornice of snow just above him. I'm like silly-panicked now, next SHAZAM and that whole thing could go. Look, lady, we gotta get skis on and get all three OUT OF HERE.
She finally listens and does it. OK. There's the neon sign. Right. Turn right. Never mind style, point and go. Mikey's floundering but moving, and... he is clear of the slab cornice.
We -fly- down the next pitch and the sun is in the sky????? Surface lifts are running, there's nothing wrong?????
Not that I'm full of nervous energy or anything at this point. I look up, and nothing of the top can be seen, all dark grey cloud.
Right. I see there's some monoskis for demo. Well, there's something I don't know how to do yet.
An hour of silliness later, the storm stops. We're on first tram back to the Men's Downhill.
Best pow half day I've ever had.
Boom, shazam, BOOM!! Gotta go!