According to 9 News, two men from the Denver metro area accidentally triggered a large avalanche on Berthoud Pass on Saturday and were able to walk away unscathed. On Saturday, January 23rd, Anthony “AJ” Appezzato and Alex Ghiggeri traveled to Berthoud Pass, despite the high risk for avalanches at that time. It was a nice day, which may have influenced them to ignore the fact that an avalanche was quite possible at that time.
“I let a good day kind of overshadow that and I wasn’t focusing on the things I should have focused on,” Appezzato said.
AJ and Alex were prepared for a worst-case scenario situation by carrying probes, shovels, and tracking devices with them while venturing out in the backcountry. AJ turned on his avalanche transceiver, which lead to a loud beeping and bright flash, that ended up saving his life when Alex went to find him after the avalanche. Around 1:30p.m. AJ was testing the snowpack to make sure it was safe to continue. He took five steps into the field and the snow collapsed beneath him, which triggered a chain reaction hundreds of feet high on the mountain.
“It literally felt like getting hit by a car. I was wearing my GPS at the time and ironically afterwards I was able to look at it and I went from moving less than a mile per hour to moving 32 miles an hour within a fraction of a second,” AJ said.
The avalanche that AJ had triggered while checking the snowpack swept both of the skiers down the mountain. Two skiers heard Alex’s screaming and rushed to the scene, where they found AJ and Alex unharmed in the avalanche debris. AJ credits his avalanche airbag for saving his life. On his way down the mountain, he pulled the tab which inflated his airbag, but after a few seconds the airbag was ripped open after hitting a tree on the way down. Although it was ripped open, it still allowed him to stay above the snow.
“The first thing I said to my partner when I came out of that snow hole was, ‘I should not be alive right now,'” Appezzato said.
Thankfully, the friends were physically unharmed from the avalanche, but it did change their perspective on the true danger of avalanches. They hope to be back out on the mountain doing what they love one day.
“It’s kind of like a surfer. If a surfer gets attacked you don’t blame the shark,” Appezzato said.