Skier Triggered and Was Briefly Submerged in Avalanche in Colorado Backcountry Monday

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Up the path. Credit: CAIC

A skier triggered and was carried by and briefly submerged in an avalanche on Marble Point near Carbondale, CO on Monday. According to the report submitted to the CAIC, the incident could have potentially resulted in an unnervingly deep burial.

The slide was about 100-feet wide, ran for 200-feet, and occurred at about 10,400-feet on Marble Point in the Aspen backcountry zone. The Aspen area has received almost two feet of fresh snow in the last five days.

The party was on their way back to their car, having noted major instabilities at higher elevations. The event took place in a small contour to the drainage that became a terrain trap. The individual carried, although briefly submerged, ended up above the snow when the slide came to a halt.

This slide was a sharp reminder of the potential consequences of any backcountry terrain, even in the relatively benign areas that we traverse on approaches to and exits from the main ski runs.

– warns the report

forecast
Current forecast map (12/16/20). Credit: CAIC

Full report from the CAIC:

Details

  • Date: 2020/12/14
  • Observer: Public

Location

  • BC Zone: Aspen
  • Area Description: ENE aspect, 10,400′ elevation on Marble Point.

Weather

  • Weather Description: Snowing moderately, calm winds, ~20 degrees F. ENE 10400′, Marble Point.

Snowpack

  • Snowpack Description: Roughly 2′ storm slab atop consolidated older snow. Very poor adhesion at the interface. Widespread whompfing and shooting cracks noted on a similar aspect and slope angle at roughly 11,000′ elevation. Did not quantitatively examine the crystal structure/habits at the interface of the slab.

Avalanches

  • Avalanche Description: Skier triggered an avalanche in a very small, localized gully atop a convexity adjacent to a small group of trees. The trigger point was the most thin area of the crown of the avalanche. Our group’s travels were masked by complacency as we traversed low angle slopes on the return to the car after having noted major instabilities at higher elevations. The terrain immediately preceding the had such a gentle slope angle, and a significant enough amount of snow, that it was not possible to maintain one’s momentum across it. We neglected to note and actively avoid steeper slopes, particularly areas of locally increased slope angles in small contours of the drainage. We took a moment to regroup next to the small grouping of trees , and plan our path towards the approach route in the trees farther to our left. We did not think much of the consequences of the shorter, but maybe 15 degree steeper slope below us that we would traverse across briefly; as my partner began to edge across the slope, it released and he was carried in a small avalanche that propagated roughly 100 feet wide and ran approximately 200′. My partner was carried, and briefly submerged in the moving snow before coming to rest atop the snowpack 100 or so feet above the toe of the slide. The event took place in a small contour to the drainage that became a terrain trap, and could have potentially resulted in an unnervingly deep burial. This slide was a sharp reminder of the potential consequences of any backcountry terrain, even in the relatively benign areas that we traverse on approaches to and exits from the main ski runs. We noted that we were in the place at the particular time as a result of having to conceded to the avalanche danger the possibility of skiing anymore that day. The decision to bail and cross very low angle terrain (up until the avalanche’s path) in some ways made us un-perceptive to the hazards posed by the smaller undulations in the terrain that was below us. This served as a good reminder to ensure that my companion rescue skills are practiced and efficient, and to carefully assess all terrain that we pass through throughout the season.
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Looking down the slide path. Credit: CAIC

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