Posted on April 24, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
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 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. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, climate and weather, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: backcountry skiing, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Colorado snow, Loveland Pass, Loveland Pass avalanche, search and rescue | 1 Comment »
Posted on April 20, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Forecasters warn of potential for similar slides
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. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, climate and weather, Colorado, Snow and weather | Tagged: 5 avalanche deaths, Colorado avalanche deaths, Loveland Pass avalanche | 5 Comments »
Posted on April 18, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
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. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, Colorado, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: avalanche deaths, backcountry, Colorado, Ptarmigan Hill avalanche, Vail Pass avalanche death | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 23, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Resorts reporting powder conditions, but road conditions could hamper access, while the backcountry avalanche danger soars
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.
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.
Filed under: avalanches, climate and weather, Colorado, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: avalanche warning, Colorado, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Colorado snow, Colorado weather, Denver, I-70, skiing, Vail Pass | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 15, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Resort says it will use more ropes and signage when needed to discourage uphill traffic and warn of potential hazards
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. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, Colorado, Ski Resorts, skiing and riding, Vail Resorts | Tagged: Colorado, inbounds avalanches, Prima Cornice avalanche, skiing, Taft Conlin, Vail Resorts, Vail Ski area | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 4, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
New snow brings spike in avalanche danger
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Avalanches have killed four people since March 1, including a snowboarder near Cameron Pass (west of Fort Collins, March 2), a snowmobiler in Utah and a climber on Mountain Washington, in New Hampshire.
The latest Colorado avalanche was a monster, breaking up to six feet deep in places. The slide was estimated at 1,200 feet wide and broke trees as it crashed down the mountain. A second person was injured in the slide and evacuated from the scene by helicopter, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, climate and weather, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: 2013 avalanche deaths, avalanches, backcountry skiing, Cameron Pass, Colorado, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, snow | Leave a Comment »
Posted on February 28, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Sketchy snowpack makes Summit County sheriff, resorts edgy
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — A sketchy snowpack and a series of avalanches in and near ski areas has prompted a joint warning on rope-ducking from Summit County Sheriff John Minor and local resorts.
Ducking a rope is also against the law as the part of the Colorado the Ski Safety Act of 1979. “You can face charges for this,” Minor said. “Don’t be naïve about the risk you’re taking, and don’t put others in danger because of your bad decisions.”
In one recent accident, a snowboarder ducked a rope at Keystone within sight of numerous people and broke through a cornice that triggered a slide. The man was caught and issued a summons by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office for skiing in a closed area. (more…)
Filed under: Arapahoe Basin, avalanches, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Ski Resorts, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: avalanches, Colorado, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Ski Resorts, skiing | Leave a Comment »
Posted on February 20, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Monthly Breckenridge ski patrol talk to focus on backcountry travel techniques and terrain choices
There’s plenty of good backcountry powder skiing in Summit County, but it’s best to stay on low-angle terrain right now, like this 28-degree slope on Baldy, Photo courtesy Matt Krane.
CAIC forecaster Tim Brown examines the crown face of a large avalanche in Montezuma Bowl, at Arapahoe Basin. Photo courtesy CAIC.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — With forecasters warily eying backcountry avalanche hazards and more snow on the way this week, Breckenridge ski patrollers will focus on safe backcountry travel techniques, route-finding and terrain selection during their monthly talk this Thursday evening (Village at Breckenridge, Tenmile Room, 6 p.m.).
The topic is especially timely following recent close calls and a cycle of natural slides in the backcountry, said Breckenridge ski patroller Matt Krane. Last week, a party of four backcountry travelers were involved with a sizable slide on Peak 6. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, Breckenridge, Colorado, recreation, skiing and riding, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: avalanche education, avalanche safety, avalanches, backcountry skiing, Breckenridge ski patrol, Colorado, Summit County Colorado | Leave a Comment »
Posted on January 29, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
A snowboarder enjoys freshies at Copper Mountain in Summit County, Colorado. Photo courtesy Copper Mountain Resort/Tripp Fay.
Winter storm warnings from Tuesday through Thursday in Colorado; avalanche danger to peak in the mountains
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Snow piled up in a big way at some Colorado ski areas and more is on the way. National Weather Service forecasters are tracking a moist flow off the Pacific that favors the northwestern mountains. Much of the state’s high country is under a winter storm warning, from Steamboat down through Fairplay.
The warning is in effect from 5 p.m. Tuesday to 5 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 31) and covers parts of the I-70 corridor. Snow and blowing snow will hinder traffic over the high passes in the region. Snow is expected to continue through Thursday with periods of heavy snow and strong winds.
The snow is a huge relief for ski areas and water managers. Already, some resorts have picked up multiple feet of snow. According to Colorado Ski Country, Silverton Mountain in the San Juans reported 78 inches of snow in the past few days, about double of the 36 inches reported at Wolf Creek.
Along the I-70 corridor, Copper reported a 6-inch storm total and declared a Snow Day for a special breed of passholders who can ski anytime there’s 4 inches or more of snow under the terms of a $99 season-long Snow Say pass. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, Colorado, snow, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: Colorado snow, Colorado weather, Copper Mountain Colorado, Copper snow day pass | Leave a Comment »
Posted on January 27, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Backcountry travelers need to stay tuned to avalanche warnings the next few days. Photo by Dylan Berwyn.
Chilly storm to bring more snow early in the week
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Forecasters are expecting a natural avalanche cycle in the south San Juans, where heavy snow and strong winds Saturday night loaded avalanche starting zones. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche warning for the south San Juans.
“Large and dangerous avalanches are likely,” the CAIC forecasters said, urging backcountry travelers to avoid avalanche terrain.
About 10 to 15 inches of dense snow piled up, with southwest winds building slabs at higher elevations. At all elevations and all aspects, the new snow sits atop layers of old persistent slabs and non-cohesive faceted kernels of snow at the base. Slides in the storm slab layer can step down into older snow, resulting in big avalanches potentially running long distances. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, climate and weather, Colorado, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: avalanche warnings, backcountry skiing, Colorado weather | Leave a Comment »