There was no warning from the snow: no thump as it broke, no roaring as it gained speed, no shaking like an earthquake as it rushed toward the bottom. Maurice Kervin, 25, just noticed a huge crack had appeared beneath his snowboard and shot like a silent lighting bolt down No Name Peak in the Colorado Rockies. As he turned to look uphill, he was hit by a cascade of white that confirmed his worst fears. He was caught in an avalanche.
“A huge slab starts breaking out below me,” Kervin said. “Right at that moment it was like, we’re in it to win it now.”
It’s a story that has been all too common in the western United States this year, with more than 700 avalanches reported in Colorado in February. Many have even been captured on film, like a billowing torrent of snow that briefly buried three snowmobilers in a valley in Utah’s Uinta Mountains.
In February, 15 people died in seven days, the deadliest week for avalanches since 1910, when a 14ft wall of snow swept two stranded trains into a gorge in Washington and killed 96.
The number of fatalities has only continued to grow. Midway through the season, 33 people have been killed in avalanches, already surpassing the annual average of 26.