Tag: avalanches

Colorado skiers warned about rope-ducking risks

Sketchy snowpack makes Summit County sheriff, resorts edgy

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A large Feb. 25 avalanche near Francie’s Cabin. Some of the hard debris chunks were 4-5 feet thick. Photo courtesy Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

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. Continue reading “Colorado skiers warned about rope-ducking risks”

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Colorado: Avalanche rescue drill set for Feb. 23

Rapid deployment teams to test their response

A Flight For Life chopper drops of a search and rescue team during a rapid deployment exercise. Photo courtesy Summit County Sheriff's Office.
A Flight For Life chopper drops off a search and rescue team during a rapid deployment exercise. Photo courtesy Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado avalanche deaths often near a peak in February, and a fickle snowpack in the backcountry has experts on edge once again this year.

To help keep emergency responders fully prepared for logistically challenging backcountry rescues, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the Summit County Rescue Group will send rescue teams on a mock mission in Mayflower Gulch this weekend in a rapid deployment exercise.

At about 9 a.m. Saturday (Feb. 23), Flight For Life helicopters will begin transporting rescue teams from the Corn Lot at Copper Mountain Ski Resort into the vicinity of the Boston Mine in Mayflower Gulch.  Snowmobiles will be used to transport participants and equipment along Mayflower Gulch Road back to the parking lot at the end of the exercise. Continue reading “Colorado: Avalanche rescue drill set for Feb. 23”

Skiing: Backcountry snowpack touchy in Colorado

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.
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.
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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. Continue reading “Skiing: Backcountry snowpack touchy in Colorado”

Colorado: Several skiers caught in A-Basin avalanche

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A Feb. 16 avalanche on the west side of Montezuma Bowl trapped a number of people, but all were recovered and only one serious injury was reported. Trail map courtesy Arapahoe Basin.

Ski patrol-led group involved in Montezuma Basin snow slide; all group members accounted for

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — An avalanche swept down a steep face at Arapahoe Basin Saturday, catching a group of 14 people led by an A-Basin ski patroller.

After an extensive search, all the people in the group were accounted for. One person was evacuated by toboggan due to a knee injury, according to a statement from Arapahoe Basin.

The slide occurred on the west side of Montezuma Bowl in an area that wasn’t yet open to the general public. The area where the slide happened underwent extensive avalanche mitigation and explosive work by Arapahoe Basin Ski Patrol during the past week. According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the avalanche was a hard slab up to 6 feet thick on a south-southeast east facing slope above treeline slope. All 15 people were caught and one person was fully buried.

Arapahoe Basin and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center will jointly investigate the slide. CAIC director Ethan Greene said he’ll visit the site Sunday at the request of A-Basin. A subsequent report from the avalanche center will likely include more detailed information on the incident.

The post-control slide at A-Basin highlights the tender nature of the snowpack in parts of the Colorado backcountry, Greene said, adding that there have been numerous slides in the area between Loveland Pass and Berthoud Pass, including the Pass Lake slide path on Loveland Pass, just west of the summit.

Nearby, a resort skier at Keystone ducked a rope and broke a cornice, which triggered another slide, Greene said. Farther north, another backcountry traveler took a 400-foot ride in an avalanche in the vicinity of Jones Pass.

“There was a fair amount of avalanche activity. There was a lot of wind transport going on today … We were all taken off guard the last few days by how reactive the snowpack is,” Greene said.

Colorado courts grappling with inbounds avalanche deaths

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Looking toward the area on Prima Cornice where the avalanche started. Photo courtesy Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Click on the photo to read the full CAIC report on the slide.

One case dismissed as another heads toward jury trial: outcome could hinge on interpretation of Colorado Ski Safety Act’s ‘inherent risks of skiing’ definition

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Two Colorado judges have reached dramatically different conclusions about a pair of inbounds avalanche deaths that occurred on the same day at Winter Park and Vail ski areas last season.

Both Colorado skiers died Jan. 22, 2012, after one of last season’s first big snowstorms dumped fresh powder atop a rotten base layer, leading to dangerous avalanche conditions across the state.

In early December, Broomfield District Court Judge Patrick Murphy rejected arguments by Vail Resorts attorneys that the avalanche that killed teenager Taft Conlin on the Prima Cornice trail at Vail Ski Area was an inherent risk of skiing, as defined by the Colorado Ski Safety Act.

In late December, Grand County District Court Judge Mary Hoak dismissed a similar lawsuit against Intrawest Winter Park Operations Corporation in the death of Christopher Norris, who was also killed by an avalanche while skiing an inbounds area at Winter Park.

Hoak ruled concluded “that the inbounds avalanche falls squarely within the definition of inherent dangers and risks of skiing.” Read the court order here. Continue reading “Colorado courts grappling with inbounds avalanche deaths”

Colorado: Ski patroller dies in avalanche at Snowmass

Colorado far exceeds any other state in the number of reported avalanche fatalities since 1950. Graph courtesy CAIC.
Colorado far exceeds any other state in the number of reported avalanche fatalities since 1950. Graph courtesy Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Three deaths reported across the country so far this season

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is reporting the first avalanche death of the 2012-2013 winter occurred Sunday, Dec. 30 at Snowmass.

According to the preliminary report, the 49-year-old female ski patroller was skiing alone in a permanently closed area called the Ship’s Prow Glades, in the Hanging Valley Area. The woman’s name is being withheld pending notification of family. Continue reading “Colorado: Ski patroller dies in avalanche at Snowmass”

Winter storm winding up across Colorado

Avalanche incidents on the rise in the backcountry

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A winter storm swirls across Colorado.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A slow-moving winter storm crossing Colorado Wednesday night through Thursday could deliver several more inches of snow to soften up the slopes for the incoming wave of holiday skiers.

The National Weather Service issued winter weather advisories for most of the western Colorado mountains, where 3 to 10 inches of snow could pile up by late Thursday night. Snow started falling in the southern mountains Wednesday morning under a southwest flow, but most ski areas only reported a trace as of Wednesday evening, with the exception of Silverton Mountain which reported 8 inches (36-inch base) in the afternoon snow report from Colorado Ski Country USA.

The heaviest snow in the central and northern mountains is expected after midnight. Winds from the west and northwest could bring 2 to 5 inches of snow to favored west-facing slopes. Light to moderate snow could continue into Thursday night before tapering off as high pressure builds into the region, bringing cold temperatures for late in the week and the first part of the weekend. Continue reading “Winter storm winding up across Colorado”