A skier caught in an avalanche in the permit area of Aspen Mountain Powder Tours avoided serious injuries.
An avalanche on Saturday in the Aspen Mountain Powder Tours permit area on Richmond Ridge got a person buried but luckily, he was unharmed after being rescued by his skiing partner. These were employees of Aspen Skiing Company scouting terrain prior to the opening of the ski season.
None of the personnel were injured and both staff have returned to work, as confirmed by Jeff Hanle, VC of Communications of Aspen Skiing Company (SkiCo). SkiCo manages the powder tours which opened this past Sunday for the ski season.
The first skier got caught and was carried at least 20 yards and buried at the base of a tree, as stated by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. His skiing partner could prove, and dig out him. He was conscious and uninjured at the time.
The report posted at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center states that the incident occurred as the two “were traversing one at a time out of McFarlane’s [a section of Richmond Ridge]. Skier one [released] the toe of the skier’s left side of the B Nose. He was carried 20 yards or so and buried at the base of a tree. Skier two performed a beacon search on the slide track. Located the burial site, probed and dug out.”
As per the Aspen Daily News, “the incident was reported to CAIC around 3 p.m. Saturday, according to Brian Lazar, deputy director. Based in Carbondale, he said the avalanche danger on Saturday was rated as “considerable at all locations.” Conditions were ranked level 3 out of a possible five levels.”
“It’s not a blanket ‘don’t go into the backcountry,’” stated Lazar saying that skiers/boarders “need conservative and cautious route-finding.”
Hanle also noted that on Saturday, “a snowboarder on Aspen Mountain triggered a small inbounds slide in a closed area.” It was discovered by ski patrol around 4 p.m. when patrol was doing its sweep of the mountain.
“The slide was not witnessed and occurred in the closed area between Northstar and the Gent’s Ridge chair. Patrol searched the slide area with probes, beacons and dogs as a precaution,” Hanle said. “If you are involved in or aware of a slide please notify ski patrol so they know everyone is safely out.”
Lazar also said that so far in Colorado this season, seven people have been caught in avalanches, though most are what he categorized as “on the small side.”
Referring to the Richmond Ridge incident, “This is the first burial we’ve seen this year according to our records.” He added that the CAIC is still gathering details as it works on a full incident report.
“Whenever people return home safely, that’s great news on our part,” Lazar added.
The season is setting up to be “one that can lead to prolonged avalanche problems in Colorado,” he said. An October snowfall that did not melt away became a weak layer for snow that fell consistently during November. Saturday’s instability was enhanced by strong winds, drifting snow and slab formation.
Lazar added that the worst year in Colorado for avalanche fatalities was 1993, when 12 people lost their lives.
The men involved on this incident on Saturday were prepared with avalanche equipment (beacons, shovels, probes) and were skiing together. It is important to always people ski with a partner, and also to take an avalanche course to know how to operate the equipment if venturing to the backcountry.
Colorado Avalanche Center – Avalanche Bulletin:
The avalanche danger is decreasing; however, dangerous human triggered avalanches are still possible. You can trigger avalanches that break in a weak layer just below the most recent storm snow or avalanches that break near the ground. You are most likely to trigger larger more dangerous avalanches in area that catch and hold wind drifted snow such as areas below easterly-facing ridgelines, on the sides of gully walls, in concave terrain features, or on near treeline convex rollovers.
The most dangerous areas could be near treeline because of the snow distribution. To help mitigate your risk, avoid areas where you see evidence of previous wind-loading. Do not let yourself get pulled into step areas, rollovers, gullies, and meadows, near and below treeline without careful thought. If you trigger an avalanche today it could be large enough to bury you.
News from Aspen Daily News.
We have been covering lots of avalanche accidents last year – from when a car was swept away by an avalanche on a Swiss pass, and the avalanches in Verbier, amongst many others. Just if going out to the backcountry, play it safe!
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Featured Image: Skier caught in an avalanche in permit area of Aspen Mountain Powder Tours avoids serious injuries.
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