As of March 30th, COAC has suspended backcountry avalanche advisories and pro observations until further notice.

On March 23rd, Governor Brown of Oregon issued Stay at Home orders for the public regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. The directives are clear in that “to the maximum extent possible, individuals stay at home or in their place of residence.” On March 27th the Deschutes National Forest issued a closure of all developed recreation sites including trailheads and snoparks. COAC is committed to supporting our community, local emergency services, and agency partners and because of this we felt it important to cease operations as we all work together to minimize the impacts and spread of COVID-19.   

This decision was not taken lightly. Aside from the need to maintain congruency with the Governors' orders, there are inherent risks with backcountry activities in alpine environments and it’s important to consider unnecessary exposure to COAC forecasters, first responders, and local medical staff in light of the current situation.

We look forward to getting back into the mountains and providing you all with the tools to recreate safely in the backcountry. Until then we thank you for your continued support and wish all our mountain community the best of health and wellness.

Santiam Pass

Observation Date/Time:
Sun, Mar 15, 2020 - 11:15 AM
Morgan & Sean
Santiam Pass Area (including Three Finger Jack) / 4500'
Report Type:
Snow Conditions   Avalanche Activity   Caught, Buried, or Injured Person  
Travel Mode:
Ski or Snowboard  
Sky Conditions:
Obscured (eg: fog)
Precip Type/Intensity:
No Precipitation

Written Report:
We toured around Santiam Pass today in the Potato Hill periphery. It was cold and windy, with winds wrapping the terrain, and coming from seemingly all directions. With the low density new snow we found some varied conditions; mostly wind affected new snow, and scoured in some areas. The visibility was poor/flat light.

On our second run we triggered two avalanches; the first a D1 windslab on a north facing slope @ 4700', and the second a D1.5 windslab on a northeast facing slope @ 4600'. Both slides were skier triggered. The first slab was top loading from a ridge, and the second avalanche was cross loading mid slope. The new lower density snow was easily transporting in the wind, and not bonding with the firm bed surface (the old snow interface).

Both slides failed with hard slab characteristics, breaking above the skier, and the second avalanche took one skier for a 200' ride. It was not a big or dramatic avalanche, but could have buried a person. We are going to debrief in 2 days to reflect on our experience, but wanted to share for informational purposes.
See pictures of the second avalanche attached.