High slide danger persists across the mountains
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Colorado’s exceptionally deep snowpack turned deadly this week, as a backcountry traveler near Kebler Pass was killed in a large avalanche. Search and rescue crews also found another victim in the backcountry between Keystone and Breckenridge after a two-day search.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the Feb. 10 Kebler Pass slide involved two snowmobilers caught in a “very large avalanche” on a south- to southeast-facing slope below treeline. The slide broke between two to five-feet deep, about 600 feet wide and ran about 750 vertical feet. Debris at the bottom of the slide piled up to 20 feet deep.
The Summit slide was reported at about 12 p.m. on Feb. 10. The reporting party was caught and was able to self-extract; however, he was unable to locate the individual he was skiing with.
The avalanche debris field was reportedly around 2,000 feet in length, with depths up to 9 feet. The cause is still under investigation.
Both avalanches happened on a day when the CAIC had issued a special backcountry avalanche warning, after several feet of snow piled up from a multi-day storm. Strong westerly winds had loaded avalanche starting zones with easily triggered slabs and the avalanche danger was rated as high across most of the Colorado mountains.
CAIC director Ethan Greene said the slide danger persists in the backcountry, with the potential for very large and dangerous slides lingering in many areas. Avalanche control work on Highway 6 near Arapahoe Basin Ski Area triggered a slide in a path known as the Black Widow, with the avalanche running all the way to the highway for the first time since the winter of 1995-96, he said.