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Sierra experts weigh in on approaching wild winter storm in NorCal: "Mother nature is mean"

Sierra experts warn of powerful storm headed in this week
Sierra experts warn of powerful storm headed in this week 03:04

Experts are stressing deep snow safety and precaution ahead of an intense winter storm that could be one of the strongest and coldest of the season in the Sierra.

Sierra expert Kevin "Coop" Cooper is with Cali Pass and has been skiing the region for three decades. He's telling people to leave now and go prepared.

"Mother Nature is mean. She's vicious, and she's going to lay down the biggest system of the season," Coop said. "This is what I like to tell people, if you're going to come up for the storm, you should have already left, you need to get up here as soon as possible. But level set your expectations."

His message comes as Ski California puts out an educational video about the dangers of snow immersion, detailing safety tips if you find yourself or a fellow skier trapped below ground.

Those tips include:

  • Ski or snowboarding down the mountain with a partner
  • Keep your partner in sight at all times, and stay close enough to dig them out
  • Avoid tree wells by staying in open spaces between trees
  • Use safety equipment to minimize any danger including helmets, beacons, and have a safety plan

"So it's going be a cold storm, right? So I like to use the hashtag, cold, smoke, pow," Coop said. "This is going to be that really deep snow, so riding with a friend, beacon pack, probe shovel."

Tree wells can trap people below the snow surface in seconds, and experts suggest riding in the center of the trail and not directly at the tree. Another dangerous factor with the impending storm is potentially hurricane-force winds. Some resorts may choose to close over safety concerns.

"The mountain operations teams have to make decisions in the early morning, what they're going to be doing as the forecast models, what is potential for the snowfall? What are the winds? Lifts are affected by winds, crosswinds," Coop said.

Avalanche mitigation is another thing that resorts will be doing to keep those heading down the mountain safe.

Coop said with a system this large and covering this much area, it's important for skiers and snowboarders heading up the backcountry to check in with the Sierra Avalanche Center to make sure they have all the latest warnings and information on conditions.

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