Report: Avalanche claims skier outside Snowmass

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenFebruary 22, 2011
A local skier died in an avalanche outside of Snowmass Ski Area today, authorities reported.

The person was skiing with two companions in an area outside of the resort's boundaries when the slide occurred this afternoon, the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office. The avalanche was reported to the sheriff's office at 4:06 p.m.

The victim was not identified but a sheriff's deputy said the person had lived in the area for four years. The victim's companions informed ski patrol that, after the slide happened, they located the skier but that he or she was dead.

"Due to the lateness of the day and the concern for rescuer safety, the decision was made to start the recovery operation on [Wednesday] morning. Mountain Rescue Aspen will conduct the recovery after snow safety operations are completed," the sheriff's office reported.

The slide occurred off the south boundary of Big Burn that drops into the Snowmass Creek drainage.

"The skier's companions report the slide in which the victim was caught was triggered by the deceased skier who was the second of the three to ski the chute," sheriff's deputy Ann Stephenson wrote in a press release.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center website indicates this would mark the fifth fatality caused by an avalanche in the state this season, and the second one on the Western Slope in just a matter of days.

The other avalanche-induced fatalities this season include:

— A slide killed a 19-year-old from Meeker, James Sizemore, on Sunday afternoon when he was riding his snowmobile in the Routt National Forest. He was reportedly buried under 9 feet of debris.

— Last month, a snowboarder and his dog died in a slide near the High Trail Cliffs northeast of Berthoud Pass.

— In December, two skiers were caught, with one of them partially buried, and the other buried and killed in Dry Gulch, east of the Eisenhower Tunnel.

— A ski patroller was caught, buried and killed in a slide in Wolf Creek in November.

The Colorado Avalanche Center rated the danger level for the Aspen-Snowmass area today as "considerable ... on slopes facing northwest through east near and above treeline. Strong winds with the last storm loaded these aspects with slabs and large triggered avalanches can still occur. Continue to use caution on these slopes. On the windward aspects near and above treeline and all slopes below treeline the danger is moderate. ... Triggered avalanches are still possible and they could be large in isolated areas. Watch for areas of cross loading on those higher elevation windward aspects and old persistent weak layers below treeline," the Colorado Avalanche Center said.


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