On Saturday, at least two people were caught in two separate avalanches in Colorado. Both of these large and dangerous avalanches were near Berthoud Pass.
- Related: Colorado Avalanche Information Center Launches New Website With Dynamic Avalanche Forecasting
The first slide was skier-triggered around 12,000 feet on Russell Summit. The first rider dropped and made a few turns into the chute. The snow cracked above and then surrounded them. The rider managed to stay on top of the snow (the airbag did deploy) but was carried roughly 400 vertical feet.
“The Avalanche was skier released on the ice bed surface 250 feet below the ridge. Skier was carried until it stopped but not buried. The slab fractured 10 feet above the skier and was 50 yards wide and estimated 4-12 inches deep. Skier was carried until the slide stopped, not buried or injured. Skier pulled Airbag which was not necessary for floatation.”
On Saturday, December 3, GCSAR was notified of a stranded hiker near Colorado Mines Peak, north of Berthoud Pass. The 19-year-old male from Indiana was hiking the Mt. Flora trail and had gotten off trail in deep snow. He triggered an avalanche and was caught and carried at least 40 feet. He then hiked downhill toward the highway. Just before 4 pm, he finally realized he wouldn’t be able to make it to the highway and called for help.
It is believed the slide occurred on the left flank of the Mines 2 avalanche slide path. Avalanche danger from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center was rated Considerable.
Conditions are similar around the state. A very weak, collapsible snow layer rests under a thick, cohesive slab. There is a lot of information, including these recent avalanches, to provide evidence that you should not travel on steep northerly and easterly slopes. It would be tough to find evidence suggesting that these slopes are safe for you to recreate on. Avalanche awareness and safety are not only for skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. Hikers and snowshoers are also susceptible to being caught, injured, or killed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
An Avalanche Watch is in effect for the Park Range, Gore Range, and Northern Sawatch. Expect avalanche conditions to worsen in these places, and the avalanche danger will rise to HIGH (Level 4 of 5) for Monday.
For many other areas, a Special Avalanche Advisory is in effect. This means we may not have enough additional snowfall to get to High danger, but you can expect to find similar conditions to Berthoud Pass, where the two recent avalanche accidents were.
Go to colorado.gov/avalanche to get all the details.