A Colorado backcountry skier had a close call after triggering an avalanche that carried him 1,000 feet down a gully according to a Colorado Avalanche Information Center report.
The incident, involving two skiers, occurred on Greg Mace Peak, south of Ashcroft, on October 27th. Skier one descended first, skiing a short chute that fed into a larger one beneath. Immediate signs of instability were seen, with multiple cracks in the storm slab on top. Skier one descended carefully to a safe zone about halfway down the couloir and stood behind a large rock outcropping. Skier one alerted skier two of the conditions and told skier two to make a large ski cut across the larger adjacent slope.
“West through south facing slopes had a consistent 25-30” of snow. Snowpack was decently consolidated, and could feel two layers using pole depth checks. Approx. 25” of consolidated snow with a very small (1-2”) layer beneath from early October storms. North facing slopes were much deeper. Heavily wind loaded, approximately 40-50” deep. Multiple layers could be felt, approx. 12” storm slab on top, 24-30” consolidated wind slab beneath that, and a 2-3” layer on bottom from early October storms.”
– Snow conditions
Skier two triggered a storm slab approximately 12” deep, and both were out of harm’s way. Skier two then began to descend the bed surface when a second avalanche was triggered, releasing the wind slab beneath and breaking all the way to the ground. The Crown was about three to four feet deep and about 200 feet wide. Skier two was caught and carried for about 1,000 feet to the bottom of the couloir. Skier two was not buried or injured.
A spokesperson for the CAIC said it was fortunate the incident wasn’t worse.
“A 1,000-foot ride is never trivial but in a 1,000-foot ride in early season conditions you are being dragged across the ground, right, so there are rocks, stumps, downed timber and shallowly buried obstacles. It’s really fortunate that no one was injured in that ride.”
– Brian Lazar, CAIC deputy director and Central Mountains lead forecaster