Avalanches in Oregon: Special 3-part series starts Thursday

Avalanches in Oregon: Special 3-part series starts Thursday
Will it stay or will it go? Test pits help ski patrols and others check the snowpack for avalanche danger.

Tune in to KVAL News at 6 p.m. starting this Thursday, Feb. 24 for Part One of a Three-Part Series on avalanches, "Anatomy of an Avalanche."

WILLAMETTE PASS, Ore. - They're an awesome force of nature that are as deadly as they are powerful: Avalanches.

You hear about them in the Pacific Northwest, but how often do they occur?

According to Oregon State University Associate Geosciences Professor Anne Nolin, they're not that uncommon.

"You don't want to have a false sense of security and think, well I live in the Pacific Northwest and we just don't have avalanches," said Nolin. "Just because you don't hear about them doesn't mean we don't have them. In fact we do, they are very frequent."

At Willamette Pass Ski Area, ski patrollers are out every day the area is open making sure runs are safe for skiers and snowboarders.

"What we'll do first is check the weather and what's been going on for the last 24 hours," said ski patroller and avalanche adviser John Fischer.

While the ski area hasn't ever had any serious threats of avalanches, it doesn't mean their guard is down.

"Anytime we get more than 2 inches of snow an hour or 12 inches in 24 hours, we're worried about avalanches," he said.

They typically happen in steeper, back country terrain.

"You're going to see them in slopes that are between 25 and 50 degrees," said Nolin. "So that might be comparable to something like a black diamond or a double black diamond ski run, something like that."

So if there is a threat, how come there isn't a Central Cascades avalanche forecaster?

Fischer says it's due to the terrain.

"One of the reasons we don't have an avalanche forecast system for the central part of the Cascades is because we don't have as many avalanche slopes," Fischer said.

And what should you do if you find yourself stuck in a dangerous situation?

We'll answer this question and more as KVAL News takes an in depth look at avalanches in a three-part series. We'll learn about the anatomy of an avalanche, how ski areas help prevent them and survival tips from the experts.

Tune into KVAL News at 6 p.m. starting this Thursday, Feb. 24, for Part One, "Anatomy of an Avalanche."

Ever been in an avalanche? KVAL News wants to hear your story.