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Avalanche Risk to Aspendell and Jawbone Canyon

Observation Details

Observation Date:
March 4, 2023

March 4, 2023

Zone or Region:
Bishop Creek


Jawbone Canyon and Aspendell Community Concerns

With the incoming storm and persistent weak layer issue in mind, I spent the day in Aspendell helping residents evacuate. Throughout this exceptional winter, they have evacuated four times now, and have been constantly battling incredible drifting snow, buried vehicles, and impassable roads, maintaining enough food to weather the storms, and managing avalanche risk. Residents are also incredibly frustrated with the irresponsible behavior of backcountry skiers.

Simply put: Residents are requesting PLEASE DO NOT SKI OUT OF ASPENDELL, ESPECIALLY JAWBONE CANYON. The two biggest issues the community is facing this winter are avalanche danger and unplowed roads, both of which backcountry skiers are directly contributing to worsening. A good portion of the community is situated within the avalanche runout of Jawbone canyon. 3 homes have already been damaged or destroyed this winter when a wind slab avalanche stepped down into a persistent weak layer, which is the exact problem we are dealing with currently, only there is more snow in play now and larger terrain is involved. A home was also destroyed in a 1986 avalanche, and we are near or have surpassed snow levels from that year. Should a skier trigger an avalanche in Jawbone canyon, not only would it likely be unsurvivable, a good portion of the community is likely to be destroyed. Under no circumstance is skiing Jawbone worth that risk to yourself, but more importantly, it is not worth it to expose others to this risk. Many avalanches exactly like the one we are so worried about have already been reported throughout the region, and one was even remotely triggered by a skier.

Skiers parking on 168 are also preventing the road from being fully plowed. Winds have been drifting incredible amounts of snow, even when it hasn’t snowed the day or night prior. When cars are parked along the side of the road plows cannot get the road clear, and this problem directly led to the road being much worse than it would have been otherwise during the last storm. The space in front of the large pile of snow is not a parking space, it is the space for the plows to pile snow.

Unless you are a resident, or someone directly involved in helping the community, please do not go to Aspendell until the county has fully cleared the roads, made parking spaces, and residents have been able to recover from these exceptional storms. This includes Bishop Bowl. There is still so much ski season ahead of us, so please be patient and avoid recreating in Aspendell for the time being.


Screenshot 2023 03 04 10.30.59 PM
Marked in red lines is the possible runout from Jawbone. The yellow X indicates a home that was destroyed by an avalanche in 1986. Should a skier trigger an avalanche, the community below is also at risk.
P1010618 1
This is the exact avalanche scenario that we are so worried about for Jawbone. What looks to have happened is a small wind slab (blue) occurred, and then stepped down to the persistent weak layer (red), triggering a much larger avalanche. A skier could easily trigger a wind slab such as this, which can and has stepped down to trigger a more destructive avalanche. The top of Jawbone is much larger than this gully, and will likely propagate much wider and involve more snow. This was on Mt. Alice, and is on a similar aspect and elevation to the top of Jawbone, and is only a few miles away.

(From Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center)

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