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Snowboarders Facing $168,000 Fines For Triggering Avalanche

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
okay okay I know they are snowboarders so we're gonna give them the stick - but makes you think a bit about where you ski/board

https://denver.cbslocal.com/2020/10/14/snowboarders-face-jail-time-fine-avalanche-near-eisenhower-tunnel/
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@extremerob, a rather expensive day out in the backcountry!
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
My initial reaction was to feel bad for them. I then thought about it a bit more, remembered that the article said snowboarders, and decided that they really should have considered what would happen if it all went tits up.
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The fact that they were experienced may well count against them, ie arguably they should have foreseen where the avalanche would go, if they did set it off.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Smoke screen springs to my mind! The chute was primed and "should" have been detonated long before the guys got near the area.
Sniffs of the authorities feeling embarrassed by the failure of the highway protection system!
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Prefering 2 planks, I'm not that up to date with snowboarding techniques, but is it standard practice to "ski cut just above the cornice to test the slope for reactivity."?

Also, "Neither party believed any vehicle or people were below them when the avalanche was triggered."

Bulls**t!! How could they possible tell from that angle and distance?

To me, just a couple of idiots out to have fun and not giving a toss about the safety of others.

If they were complete beginers, some allowance could be made for inexperience, but the fact that they claim to be "experienced backcountry riders" makes this worse in my view.

The more experience you claim to be, the more a charge of negligence could apply if it all goes t*ts up.


Just for the record, I'm not biased, I would make the same comments if they had been skiers. Toofy Grin Toofy Grin
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Rogerdodger wrote:
Smoke screen springs to my mind! The chute was primed and "should" have been detonated long before the guys got near the area.
Sniffs of the authorities feeling embarrassed by the failure of the highway protection system!


My first reaction - if it was a chute under state"control" then manifestly thos controls had failed and perhaps the boarders did everyone a favour by "safely" triggering a smaller avalanche than mght have occurred later. Clearly they thought they were doing a precautionary "failsafe" cut to ensure the controls had operated effectively, not recklessly jumping in careless as to effect. Think they probably have a decent case if they have decent enough lawyers versed in backcountry risk factors. Obviously it would be important if the state or highways authority had posted prohibition notices on the area but it sounds like they hadn't.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
From pugski

Apparently CDOT don't control for any human triggers nor post closure on terrain (or have Forest Service do so).

I'm a bit sceptical that natural triggers aren't really a matter of time before they go big enough at the right/wrong time to defeat a control programme but maybe there's a point that a chute which has to have a manual cut on it to "go" wouldn't have gone naturally. Think they were probably idiots for going into a zone where worst run out would be into a very high profile bit of infrstructure.
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brianatab wrote:
Prefering 2 planks, I'm not that up to date with snowboarding techniques, but is it standard practice to "ski cut just above the cornice to test the slope for reactivity."? ...
Rather like the mountain not knowing you're an expert, it obviously doesn't know what you have strapped to your feet either.

It depends what they mean, precisely, but broadly yes, "ski cuts", even on a snowboard, are
absolutely standard practice. In this case the technique appears to have saved both their lives.

All other things being equal, that suggests that they were competent. You can never tell from one journalist's article,
but it sounds like the issue is more if it was legal to ride there or not. If it's legal to ride, then one must accept that there's
a slide risk, end of story. If on the other hand the proximity of the highway means that they don't want the risk of skier (or boarder)
triggered slides, then riding there will be illegal, and they should not have been there, competent to deal with the conditions or otherwise.
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It's an interesting situation and I have mixed feelings.

They should have been aware that a potential slide could affect those below. It's no different to dropping in on top of someone in that regard. The fact they said they believed no vehicle was below them suggests they did know their was potential for a slide to go onto the road (although I'm skeptical they could know that).

On the other hand it seems unlikely that a slide that big could have been predicted. It would be interesting to see the full report for that day as simply stating the risk was level 2 does not say much. For example in Canada the avalanche forecast gives a risk of avalanche and also expected size. If the forecast was saying risk level 2 but expected size 4-5 and the snowpack was known to have a deep weak layer I'd maybe be more critical.

While I question if it would have slid naturally, I think the state/transport board have to accept some fault. Either they need to control it better to prevent a situation where it can slide into the road, or completely close the area off for skiers.

(For those that want to see a harmonious - for the most part - relationship of backcountry skiing and avy controlling a major highway look at Rogers pass in Canada.)

Fortunately no one was hurt. The idea of prison and huge fines seems overkill. A slap on the wrist and a new policy to prevent the situation happening again seems like a sensible outcome.
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boarder2020 wrote:
It's an interesting situation and I have mixed feelings.

They should have been aware that a potential slide could affect those below. It's no different to dropping in on top of someone in that regard. The fact they said they believed no vehicle was below them suggests they did know their was potential for a slide to go onto the road (although I'm skeptical they could know that).


"They said they believed no vehicle was below them" prompts a couple of points. From their viewpoint could they actually see all the area of the road which the avalanche eventually reached? Secondly, even if the road was clear when they triggered the avalanche as it's a high speed Interstate it only takes a couple of seconds for a vehicle they couldn't see to enter the danger zone.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
boarder2020 wrote:
A slap on the wrist and a new policy to prevent the situation happening again seems like a sensible outcome.


Agreed. But this is America.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@Alastair Pink, agreed.

There is also the factor that it would be impossible to see any pedestrian traffic from that distance, or to predict any traffic exiting the tunnel.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
This is the CAIC report before anyone gets into any fantasies about it taking out I 70 traffic which is constant. It went to a service road above the tunnel entrance and the damage the state are claiming is predominantly to avy protection structures.

https://avalanche.state.co.us/caic/acc/acc_report.php?acc_id=754&accfm=inv

Seems that locally the pair have been known for close calls in the past however.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
That's a handy report. From that they were actually descending: it wasn't a ski cut which released it. If you look at the images, the "step down" is quite dramatic.

I don't know what laws are in play, but the canon placement assumes that the upper slope doesn't slide... which is clearly incorrect.
The upper slope isn't protected at all (image 3).
I guess the boarders will then claim any damage to the cannon is a feature of lack of protection to the upper slopes..
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
That second step-down in the slide is pretty impressive!

It also looks like where the second major step-down takes place that there is an avi-control cannon slightly above (blue oval between B and C), which you would think would have been effective in preventing an unstable pack forming there.

Quote:

mitigation to protect infrastructure like highways is focused on reducing the potential of large natural avalanches. This differs from mitigation within ski areas, where the focus is reducing the potential for even small human-triggered avalanches.


The first and small slide is skier triggered, the second harder to see how you would classify it as small.

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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Update this

https://coloradosun.com/2021/03/05/colorado-avalanche-information-center-criminal-charges-phil-weiser/

State Attorney General isn't happy about use of evidence they voluntarily turned over to CAIC for better avy education for all being used against them

and

https://coloradosun.com/2021/03/25/mistrial-colorado-case-against-backcountry-snowboarders-triggered-avalanche/
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I read all about this situation earlier this week. Sounds like someone has a stick up his backside.
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Through their actions they caused damage to state and/or federal property. Under what legal principle does triggering an avalanche exempt you from paying for the damage caused by your actions? Unfortunate for the snow borders in question but perhaps they should have taken out some insurance to cover themselves before going out back country.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@jabuzzard, agreed, and (if it dumps) what about the increased risk to others now that the mitigation systems have been neutralized? The damage done may not be over with yet. Lucky to survive themselves, unlucky otherwise. Sometimes stuff blows up in your face and then it is accountability time. Now is that time for our boarder friends.
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I doubt your boarder friends are stupid enough to think you can somehow "insure" against one's own criminality: that's on you.
How hard is it to read the text of the link, even if you're not smart enough to actually read the article itself?

It's a criminal case. That's kind of the point. Duh.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Sun 28-03-21 18:18; edited 1 time in total
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
But what about the message the legal action sends to all back-country skiers / boarders in Colorado? Anyone triggering an avalanche in future might now just leave the scene as fast as possible. No check for casualties, no alerting the emergency services, no photo / video footage (that might help avoid future incidents) made available to CAIC. Could potentially lead to riskier conditions and a significant negative impact on tourism.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@ecureuil, what would you do? I like to think you'd (a) stay out of places you aren't supposed to be, and (b) you'd report an event for the safety reasons you've cited. Its called being smart in the backcountry. Worrying about people who aren't going to do the right thing seems a waste of time; they're always going to be focused on themselves. If we are worried about "sending messages", how about the one they'd send if they let 'em off? "Go ahead, they don't enforce that law". The State is out a ton of money, who should pay for that?
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It's a stupid case which is why I think the State AG has weighed in on the side of CAIC.

The area wasn't "closed" or "illegal" and what they are being pursued for is criminal damage to some avalanche protection structures whose job presumably is a) to take the hit in the event of an avalanche or b) mitigate against an avalanche developing. If b) they failed at their job anyway.

The boarders may or may not be complete douchebags but that is kinda irrelevant as is whether, given lack of illegality, they were making a prudent route choice. They triggered a small slide with then stepped down to the bigger slide that did cause the damage. They called it in on 911 and met with the police at the bottom to establish no persons caught or injured. They then voluntarily handed over materials t CAIC for better analysis and education of the incident and risks that may be present elesewhere on similar aspects etc.

By going after prosecution the state in this case is basically saying to all backcountry enthusiasts - protect yourself from the law by never reporting anything - which will severely impact the role of the CAIC. For the sake of a sum of money which the guys will probably never pay and possibly declare bankruptcy as a result. I think that's a bigger message than the don't ski/ride anywhere where there is a remote possibility a road or a state structure will be impacted because powder blindness and a certain" we're not like those guys" ego will prevent that message having much meaningful impact.
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philwig wrote:
I doubt your boarder friends are stupid enough to think you can somehow "insure" against one's own criminality: that's on you.
How hard is it to read the text of the link, even if you're not smart enough to actually read the article itself?

It's a criminal case. That's kind of the point. Duh.


Lets say I am driving along hit a patch of black ice, veer off the road and take out a road sign. You will find despite doing nothing illegal your insurance is on the hook for the cost to replace the road sign. Just because you didn't intend to do something does not mean you are not on the hook for the damage your actions have caused. Note if you where speeding illegally your insurance would still cover it.

In general damaging someone else's property without authorisation is criminal damage.

The only lesson I can see is make sure you have insurance cover if your actions could cause damage to someone else's property.
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jabuzzard wrote:


Lets say I am driving along hit a patch of black ice, veer off the road and take out a road sign. You will find despite doing nothing illegal your insurance is on the hook for the cost to replace the road sign. Just because you didn't intend to do something does not mean you are not on the hook for the damage your actions have caused. Note if you where speeding illegally your insurance would still cover it.

In general damaging someone else's property without authorisation is criminal damage.

The only lesson I can see is make sure you have insurance cover if your actions could cause damage to someone else's property.


Is that actually right or an internet argument assertion?

I once tripped over the table foot getting up from a table on a restaurant patio and put my hand agianst the plate glass window reflexively to steady myself which duly cracked. Would I really have been liable for criminal damage? I assumed such accidents were provided for in the restaurants own insurance policy (and had they pursued me I guess I'd have had a counter claim for unsafe furniture which cause the trip and perhaps lack of adequately reinforced glazing which could have been a hazzard to customers inside and outside the restaurant)
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@Dave of the Marmottes, no. No mens rea. Assuming you were not reckless and did not intend to cause damage then the bar for criminal damage is not met.

Bar for recklessness in English and US law is pretty high.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
jabuzzard wrote:
... In general damaging someone else's property without authorisation is criminal damage.
The only lesson I can see is make sure you have insurance cover if your actions could cause damage to someone else's property.
Lessons? Yes, you ought to take some, but in the mean time it's probably best to keep quiet.
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