avalanche chute

An avalanche chute is a natural channel down a steep mountain slope, the path followed by an avalanche’s tumultuous racing snow and debris. David Lavender captures the feeling of the tumult in One Man’s West: “Down the slope we’d just quit pounded the avalanche. A cloud of powdered snow rose hundreds of feet above it. Through the reverberations we could hear the air popping like a giant whip as it rushed in to fill the vacuum left by the slide. A wall of air surged ahead, booming like thunder from cliff to cliff.” A chute is initially scraped raw by the force and speed of an avalanche; whatever disturbed soils might remain, however, are prime for new vegetation, making avalanche chutes a preferred habitat for grizzly bears, which forage on the fresh sedges, forbs, and grasses. An avalanche chute that descends through a forested hillside creates with that opening a useful edge for wildlife such as deer, as it allows them either to graze in the open or move back into the protection of the trees. Songbirds are also known to take advantage of these mountainside clearings adjacent to their normal forest canopy habitat.

Carolyn Servid