Crowdfunding push aims to cut avalanche deaths

A wet snow avalanche in Tenmile Canyon, near Frisco, Colorado.

A wet snow avalanche in Tenmile Canyon, near Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Snowsports industry, safety agencies team up for Project Zero

Staff Report

With 25 backcountry avalanche deaths in the U.S. this winter, and eight in Colorado, mountain enthusiasts are launching a major crowdfunding push to boost the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The Colorado effort is part of an ambitious national push to reduce avalanche fatalities to zero by 2025. Project Zero is a collaboration between AIARE, Snowsports Industries America, Friends of the CAIC, the Utah Avalanche Center, Northwest Avalanche Center, Canadian Avalanche Centre, National Ski Areas Association and the National Ski Patrol.

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Colorado appeals court says ski areas not liable for inbounds avalanches

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Flags mark the spot where Christopher Norris died in an inbounds avalanche on open terrain at Winter Park Ski Area on January 22, 2012. Photo courtesy CAIC.

Ruling broadens ski industry immunity
 to lawsuits

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Skiers and snowboarders in Colorado may want to start carrying their avalanche gear at developed resorts, after an appeals court ruled last week that avalanches are one of the many inherent risks of skiing on lift-served terrain.

The Colorado Court of Appeals decision (announced Feb. 13) stems from a deadly January 22, 2012 avalanche at Winter Park resort, when Christopher Norris died while skiing an open, inbounds run at Winter Park known as Trestle Trees. As it stands, the ruling broadens the almost unprecedented immunity that ski resorts have from being held liable for accidents, including inbounds avalanches. Continue reading

Avalanches kill two in Colorado

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High avalanche danger prevailed across the Colorado mountains when two backcountry skiers died in snow slides Feb. 10.

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.

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Colorado: Big slides likely in the backcountry

Forecasters issue avalanche advisory for Summit-Vail and Front Range mountain zones

An avalanche near Vail Pass, Colorado.

Big, dangerous slides like this slab avalanche in Uneva Bowl, near Vail Pass, are likely in the Colorado backcountry the next few days. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dangerous avalanche conditions will persist across most of Colorado’s mountains for the next few days, as new snow and winds combine to bring the snowpack to its breaking point. With more snow in the forecast, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an advisory for the Vail-Summit and Front Range zones, valid through 8 a.m. Monday (Jan. 12). Continue reading

Colorado: East Vail snow slide kills one skier

Forecasters warn of persistent avalanche danger

FRISCO — Skiing the East Vail chutes when the avalanche danger is rated as considerable is a dangerous game of Russian Roulette. After numerous close calls in the area the past few weeks, a backcountry skier died in a snowslide on Monday, January 7. It is the second avalanche death in Colorado this season. The first occurred Dec. 31 on Parkview Mountain, west of Willow Creek Pass.

Outsideonline.com is reporting that the victim was 24-year-old Tony Seibert, the grandson of Vail co-founder Pete Seibert. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center confirmed the East Vail Chutes death, but the CAIC website offered few details on the deadly incident. The center’s avalanche experts will visit the site Jan. 8 to investigate the accident. Continue reading

Colorado: Report says deadly Loveland Pass slide went unnoticed for several hours

State report concludes the April 20 avalanche accident that killed five people was avoidable

Looking east along the crown line of an April 20 avalanche that killed five men in the Sheep Creek drainage

Looking east along the crown line of an April 20 avalanche that killed five men in the Sheep Creek drainage near Loveland Pass, Colorado. Photo courtesy CAIC.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s April in Colorado and heavy snow is falling on the mountains of the Continental Divide, where a high-spirited group of mountain enthusiasts gather to plan a short backcountry tour, envisioning dreamy, floating turns and faceshots on the slopes of Mt. Sniktau, a mountain along the Continental Divide between Loveland Ski Area and Arapahoe Basin where planners once hoped to create an Olympic ski arena.

Well equipped and versed in backcountry travel, the six men head up Loveland Pass, a Mecca for Colorado backcountry skiers since the early days of the sport. At Scotty’s Corner, the last hairpin before the crest, the men headed east across the face of the 13,234-foot peak, aiming for northwest facing slopes on the far side of a broad gully that splits the face of the peak, according to an April 24 report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Recognizing the potential danger of avalanches, the group identifies what they thought was a safe zone near a cluster of trees on a knoll on the far side of the drainage. They discuss the avalanche danger again, agreeing to spread out as they crossed the slope. But they aren’t cautious enough, given the magnitude of the slide they ultimately trigger at about 10:15 a.m. Continue reading

Colorado: Avalanche kills 5 near Loveland Pass

Forecasters warn of potential for similar slides

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The deadly avalanche happened in the Sheep Creek drainage, near the center of the image, above the Loveland Basin ski trails.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Emergency officials say five snowboarders died in a large avalanche near Loveland Pass, in Clear Creek County, Colorado. The avalanche was in the generally north-facing Sheep Creek drainage, which runs down into the Loveland Basin Ski area. Continue reading

Colorado: Avalanche kills snowboarder near Vail Pass

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A winter-like series of storms has resulted in considerable avalanche risks in parts of the Colorado backcountry.

Risk of slides persists in the backcountry

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s backcountry snowpack proved deadly for the sixth time this winter, as a snowboarder was killed Thursday by an avalanche in the backcountry near Vail Pass — specifically in an area known as Avalanche Bowl, on Ptarmigan Hill.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the accident involved a group of three skiers using snowmobiles to access fresh backcountry powder at a time when the snowpack was more winter-like than spring at higher elevations.

The CAIC reported that one of the riders was caught and washed into a stand of trees, where he likely died of injuries. The deep, persistent-slab avalanche likely released on a northerly aspect in a near-treeline area, according to the CAIC. Continue reading

Colorado: Spring storm packs a punch

Resorts reporting powder conditions, but road conditions could hamper access, while the backcountry avalanche danger soars

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An active northern jet stream is bringing cold air and moisture to the northern tier of states, including Colorado. On and off snow is possible through the weekend.

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The CAIC is reporting numerous backcountry avalanches. Click here for more photos.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — March is living up to its reputation as the snowiest month in the Colorado high country, with chilly spring storm snarling roads, intensifying avalanche danger and adding much-needed moisture to the state’s snowpack.

Ski areas around the state are generally reporting up to 12 inches of new snow in the past few days, and moderate to heavy snow continued falling Saturday morning. Some of the heaviest totals are expected east of the Continental Divide, where the California Department of Transportation reported bumper-to-bumper traffic around I-70 and C-470.

East of Denver, I-70 was closed to the Kansas border, and slick conditions on the westbound approach to the mountains prompted CDOT to require chains, snow tires or four-wheel drive for all vehicles in Mt. Vernon Canyon, just west of Denver.

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Vail Ski Area revamps management of Prima Cornice terrain after last winter’s deadly inbounds avalanche

Resort says it will use more ropes and signage when needed to discourage uphill traffic and warn of potential hazards

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A diagram prepared by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center shows the approximate locations of various gates used to access Prima Cornice at Vail Ski Area.

*Read more Summit Voice coverage of the inbounds avalanche deaths at Vail and Winter Park here.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With the discovery phase of a trial over last year’s inbounds avalanche death of a teenage skier under way, Vail Resorts this week announced that it has changed the way ski patrollers manage the Vail Ski Area terrain where the deadly incident occurred.

Based on its own review of the avalanche on Prima Cornice, Vail officials said there may be times when patrollers use more ropes and signage to indicate closures and potential danger. The changes were instituted at the start of this season, according to a statement from Vail Resorts.

“Vail Resorts takes safety as its highest priority, and we continually re-evaluate and adapt based on new information or changing skier behavior. The Company remains a defendant in a lawsuit concerning this incident and will not be making additional comments. We remain incredibly saddened by the events of that day, and our deepest sympathy continues to go out to the family of Taft Conlin,” the company said in it statement. Continue reading

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