"people are stoked to finally make some turns, and get the 'bluebird' phenomenon, thinking things are more stable than they are just because their excited. "
Yeah, for sure. I have never heard of Alta patrol sweeping the mountain, preseason, mid-afternoon like that. Crazy day. True that its uncontrolled, but there is so much pre-season traffic at Alta in particular, that it tends to be somewhat safer than elsewhere. But if you're getting first tracks in the steeps like Gunsight or High Rustler, you better be cutting it like a patroller, toward a safe zone (my preference is to be on belay), not dropping in for faceshots. The injury on Gunsight turned out to be a fractured femur, the same day Jamie got caught.
"Seems to happen alot here in Colorado with the relatively thin snowpack and the persistent depth hoar that always forms from our October storms."
Exactly; I guess you guys know all about it. Here, like in 2009, we'd say "oh no, we have a Colorado snowpack this year"...
. That rotten layer on the ground just doesn't go away for months; and its hard to be conservative that long. It does look like another one of those years. I remember a forecast around Feb 2010, where they were saying something like: here in the Wasatch, you may be used to waiting a few days after a storm, and then it settles out. Wait a week, then its all good. But that year, you'd wait a week, and there would be less slides, but someone would go further out, and still trigger slides to the ground; with a few sets of tracks on the slope. Sketchy.