Backcountry skier escapes avalanche at Red Table Mountain with broke leg
January 13, 2017
EAGLE COUNTY — A backcountry skier swept away in an avalanche escaped with his life and a broken leg.
Three people were backcountry skiing on the northeast side of Red Table Mountain, on the morning of Jan. 7, said a report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
The three, who were not named in incident reports, skied an easterly slope on that calm, cold morning.
The slope showed no signs of instability, except a storm snow avalanche on a northerly slope nearby that was triggered the ay before, the CIAC report said.
They skinned east and ascended a low angle gully to the top of a northerly slope for their second run.
A 50-foot wide swath of snow gave away when the man was about halfway down the slope, and slid about 500 feet, sweeping the man away with it.
The man managed to stay on top of the slide, but it was moving so quickly he was unable to escape.
On the way down he hit a small tree and suffered a broken leg, the CIAC said.
The other two skiers had not started skiing down the slope before it broke loose and slid.
They used their cell phones to call for help, but communication was spotty and navigation the phones provided coordinates about 15 miles from where they were, said members of Vail Mountain Rescue who finally found them.
It was after dark when a Flight for Life helicopter crew spotted them, using night vision goggles, rescuers said. That night vision gear made it possible for the rescuers to spot the avalanche victim and his companions from several miles away, rescuers said.
Vail Mountain Rescue crew members said that among the lessons is that if the victim had been out there alone, he might ever have been found and would have died.
"The lesson is that if you were doing that alone, and no knows you're, you're dead," rescuers said.
As storm after storm rolls through the Rockies, almost two dozen avalanches have slid in the last couple weeks.
One slide closed Interstate 70 on Vail Pass this week. More than 20 avalanches were reported along U.S. 550 in southwestern Colorado, and eight on Loveland Pass.
Nine people have been caught in those avalanches, and two were fully buried.
None of those victims died.
— Randy Wyrick, Vail Daily
Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.