2 Snowmobilers Killed by Avalanche Near Winter Park Resort, CO

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Looking at the east and southeast faces of Mount Epworth. The avalanche on the right, above Pumphouse Lake, is the one that killed the two riders on January 7. Credit: CAIC

On January 7, 2023, at approximately 2:15 pm, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, along with Grand County EMS, Grand County Search and Rescue, and a Winter Park Ski Patrol Dog Team, responded to a report of an avalanche on Corona Pass in the area of Mount Epworth / Pumphouse Lake near the Town of Winter Park in unincorporated Grand County, CO. Initial reports were that two snowmobilers had become buried in the avalanche.

“Unfortunately, this is the second fatal avalanche that we have experienced this season in Grand County. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims. We encourage those recreating in our backcountry to regularly monitor the conditions and follow the advice of our avalanche professionals at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).”

– Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin

Emergency responders, with the assistance of citizens in the area, were able to recover one of the individuals, who was identified as a 58-year-old male from Northern Colorado. Despite emergency resuscitation efforts, this victim was pronounced deceased on the scene and was transferred to the Grand County Coroner’s Office. Responders could not locate the second buried male victim and were forced to retreat from the area due to weather and safety concerns.

On January 7, 2023, at around 2:00 PM, two snowmobilers were caught, buried, and killed in a large avalanche on the east face of Mount Epworth, about 6 miles east of Winter Park. Another group in the area was able to locate one of the riders with a transceiver. They performed CPR, but their efforts were unsuccessful. The second rider was not wearing an avalanche transceiver. Grand County Sheriff’s Deputies and Grand County search and rescue were unable to locate the second rider before dark. They will continue the search on Sunday.

Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of the people involved in this tragic accident. CAIC staff will visit the accident site on Sunday, January 8, and we will publish a final report in the next week.

CAIC Preliminary Report

A map of the Rollins Pass area. The red box marks the accident site. Credit: CAIC

Early Sunday morning on January 8, 2023, teams returned to the avalanche area to continue search and recovery efforts for the second victim. Shortly before 11 am, the second victim, a 52-year-old male from Northern Colorado, was located, recovered, and subsequently transferred to the Grand County Coroner’s Office. The identity of this decedent and the official cause and manner of death will be released by the Coroner’s Office when appropriate.

The avalanche forecast for the area on Saturday rated the danger as ‘considerable.’

You can trigger a large, deadly avalanche on northwest through east to south-facing steep slopes. You are most likely to trigger an avalanche from an area of shallower snow, and it may break near the ground on weak layers buried one to three feet deep. You can trigger these avalanches from the bottom of a slope or from a distance, and they can break wider or run farther than you anticipate. Be cautious of wind-drifted slopes that face any direction, but especially easterly-facing slopes below ridgelines, downhill of convex rollovers, and in gully features. Any steep slope with smooth, bulbous pillows of snow above weak snow at the ground is suspect; a small avalanche can easily trigger a larger, more deadly slide. If you see signs of unstable snow like cracking or collapsing, move to slopes less than about 30 degrees that are not connected to larger, steeper slopes above.

– CAIC Forecast for 1/7/23

The fatalities are the third and fourth in Colorado this winter, and the second and third near Winter Park Resort, CO. A snowboarder was killed in an avalanche on Berthoud Pass on December 26th, 2022.

There have been five avalanche-related fatalities in North America this winter.

Saturday’s avalanche forecast. Credit: CAIC

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