Early Season Snowfall Leads to Early Season Instabilities in Colorado

SnowBrains | | AvalancheAvalanche
The run out path of the avalanche from earlier in the week in Colorado
The run out path of the avalanche from earlier in the week in Colorado

Earlier in the week, two Colorado skiers triggered a small slab avalanche while hiking a couloir on Mt. Owen in the Ruby Range.  The skiers were partially buried, but neither were injured.  The slide occurred on a NE aspect at an elevation of 12,600 feet on a 39° slope.  The initial slide started on a 6″ storm slab and broke through several graupel layers where it ran on a 4cm melt-freeze crust from storms in early October.

Snow pit profile, with graupel layers highlighted
Snow pit profile, with graupel layers highlighted

Accident report:

Two backcountry tourers triggered and were caught in an avalanche on 11/3 on Mount Owens in the Ruby Range west of Crested Butte. The two were on foot, climbing a north-facing chute locally know as “Jenga.” They were about halfway up when the avalanche broke above them. They braced through the initial portion of the avalanche. The avalanche increased in size as the whole slope cleared out. The skiers were caught, carried, and partially buried. They were uninjured but lost some equipment.

Looking up the chute where the skiers triggered the avalanche
Looking up the chute where the skiers triggered the avalanche

This serves as a reminder to all backcountry skiers.  Just because it is early season, the snow pack is thin, and there are still a number of visible anchors does not mean that we can simply rule out the possibility of avalanches.  If heading out, make sure you have your full kit and are ready for anything.

The location of the incident, the slide path is highlighted in blue.
The location of the incident, the slide path is highlighted in blue.

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