Thursday, August 30, 2012

Avy on Asbestos Mine Tailings Pile

Treeless open terrain for skiing is very limited in Northeastern North America.
Periodically though, interest arises in skiing one of the manmade treeless hills out here.  Most such terrain is in Quebec, but one is in Vermont, and was even featured in Backcountry magazine a few years ago.

Manmade treeless hills?  As in a clearcut logging operation?
No, the manmade part refers to the hill:  not created for skiing, or even for the purposes of creating a hill, but instead a byproduct of asbestos mine tailings.

The angle of repose for such a . . . substance is strikingly similar to the optimal angle for slab avalanche initiation.

And sticking up above everything else, prone to wind loading too.

So, what could possibly go wrong with skiing an avalanche-prone, Superfund-designated, carcinogen-laced industrial waste site?

I've read a detailed account of one skier-initiated avalanche there, and heard about a dog dying in another.  (Plus a death at a Quebec site.)
Here's a video of another avalanche:

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