While the Plains states and Northeast have been drubbed again and again by winter in recent weeks, they've got nothing on Mount Rainier National Park. In the past week the park has received more than 6 feet of snow at Paradise.
That prodigous amount of snowfall -- 6.5 feet at last tally -- kept the Paradise area closed most of the week, although they managed to open it via the Nisqually Entrance on Saturday.
"While all this fresh snow provides some fantastic skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing opportunities, it also presents some acute, specific dangers skiers and riders need to be aware of- snow immersion suffocation and avalanches," the park's website noted.
Avalanches are the more commonly known hazard. The danger of natural or human caused wind or storm slab release is currently very high to extreme, even at lower elevations, and should remain so until the snowfall subsides and the fresh snow is allowed to stabilize. Remember, avalanches can and do occur just minutes from the Paradise parking lot! For more information on avalanche conditions go to http://www.nwac.us/. Ranger Glenn shares more about avalanche risk on Mount Rainier in this Ranger Brief video.
Snow Immersion Suffocation, or SIS, occurs when a skier or rider falls, usually head-first, into deep, unconsolidated snow or a tree well and becomes immobilized and trapped under the snow, leading to suffocation. Tragically, a 35 year-old skier died at Crystal Mountain Ski Area on February 19th after falling head first into a tree well. Most SIS incidents occur just after big storm cycles, as we have just experienced. In an inverted position it is almost impossible to self-extricate, and breathing becomes difficult as loose snow begins to pack in around you. It is critical to ski or ride with a partner, and to keep each other in sight at all times! A great resource for information on SIS can be found at http://www.deepsnowsafety.org/index.php/.