7 Caught, 3 Injured, 2 Killed at Independence Pass, Colorado Avalanche

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“Some of the avalanche paths that we’re seeing right now, particularly in the past couple of weeks across the state of Colorado, are as big as they’ve run in decades.” – Brian Lazar, deputy director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Seven skiers were caught in an avalanche on Star Mountain on the east side of Independence Pass near Leadville, Colorado on Saturday at about 5pm.  Three skiers were injured and two lost their lives.  The injuries were a collapsed lung, a broken rib, a broken ankle, and a broken leg.  Large snowfalls followed by high temperatures have made the Colorado snowpack very unstable.

The deceased skiers were recovered by rescue workers on Sunday. The deceased skiers were not fully buried leaving us to believe that they’d received fatal trauma during the avalanche.  The group likely had to leave the deceased skiers behind to mitigate the life threatening injuries others had sustained.

independence pass fatal avalanche
Fatal Star Mountain avalanche on Saturday. photo: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

These 7 skiers triggered this avalanche in “very very steep” terrain.  The avalanche slide down to the ground revealing just how steep, rocky, and gnarly this terrain really is.

The details of how the avalanche occurred have not been released.  The Colorado Avalanche Information Center will release a full report tomorrow.

“We are seeing very dangerous avalanche conditions developing from basically the New Mexico border north to Wyoming.  And the problem list is about as complicated as it can get. We are seeing very large avalanches taking out very old trees, mine buildings that have been around for many decades, and avalanches burying roadways with 20 feet of debris.

“People have been getting caught and killed in avalanches recently. These are glaring, flashing and obvious clues that things are not all good across our backcountry. We are seeing a snowpack that is teetering on the brink of critical mass.” – Colorado Avalanche Information Center on Friday, Feb. 14th, 2014

Fatal Star Mountain avalanche on Saturday.  photo:  Colorado Avalanche Information Center
Fatal Star Mountain avalanche on Saturday. photo: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

This was the 4th avalanche fatality in Colorado in the past 7 days.

It was a terrible avalanche week in North America last week with 2 avalanche deaths in Oregon2 avalanche deaths in Utah, 4 avalanche deaths in Colorado, and one avalanche death in British Columbia.  

15 people have died in avalanches in the USA this winter.

“We’ve [Colorado] had a much larger than average snowfall for this time of year.  My advice would be that anyone who does want to do backcountry skiing be totally prepared. Taking an avalanche education course would be really, really helpful. Being fully prepared with proper equipment, proper clothing, food, water and beacons.” – Susan Matthews, a spokeswoman for the Lake County Office of Emergency Management

US avalanche fatalities, winter 2013/14.
US avalanche fatalities, winter 2013/14.

Learn more about Avalanches:

SnowBrains.com’s Avalanche Webpage

 


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