Skiers narrowly escape avalanche near Aspen
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado ” A large, naturally occurring avalanche passed between a group of 12 skiers that had split into two smaller groups of six Sunday afternoon, south of Aspen. No one was injured.
The slide, on South Kellogg Chute near the base of Pearl Pass Road, was reported to be roughly 500 yards wide and large enough to travel across Castle Creek two miles above Ashcroft.
“That was a big one,” said Tigran Valdez, of Ashcroft, who saw the avalanche and called Mountain Rescue Aspen. “The snow was dirty, it went all the way through all the layers, broken trees of six to eight inches, all the way across Castle Creek.”
Soon after Mountain Rescue Aspen members arrived, the second group of six was contacted by radio. However, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said it was unlikely rescuers would have gone into the field.
“We came to a decision that we probably wouldn’t put any [rescuers] in there because of the level of avalanche danger,” said Joe Bauer, a patrol director for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. “It would have been a tough decision. But that’s the way we were leaning.”
The 12 skiers were returning from a night out at one of the Braun Huts, near Ashcroft.
Avalanche danger in the Aspen area mountains has been raised to high by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and travel in avalanche areas is not recommended.
According to the CAIC: “The avalanche danger for the Aspen zone is high on north, northeast, east and southeast aspects near and above treeline where natural and human-triggered slides are likely. Elsewhere the danger is considerable.”
The heightened avalanche danger is, at least partially, because of major snowstorms sweeping the area. Snowmass and Aspen Highlands reported 18 inches Sunday morning, while Aspen and Buttermilk had 13.
The storm is expected to bring a total three feet or more and snowfall is expected through the week, according to the National Weather Service.
Nearly everything at the four areas was open on Sunday. Fifty acres at Highlands was closed in the south-facing Y-zones of Highland Bowl and skiers found Temerity closed Sunday morning. At Snowmass, Elk Camp was closed sporadically during the day and the Cirque never opened. The areas still have not opened 100 percent of their terrain.
Though the snow has had a favorable effect on area skiing, it cut numbers at the Aspen Cross Country Center Extravaganza, featuring free food and ski rentals.
“The magnitude of fun is the same but there are a lot less people,” said Tim Clement, manager at the cross country center, during the extravaganza on Sunday. “We have about a quarter of the people we had last year.”
Joel Stonington can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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