Two close avalanche calls on Friday, Dec. 27 kept the Summit County Rescue Group on high alert throughout the day.
In both cases, the riders either escaped or were rescued.
The first avalanche occurred during the early afternoon on Loveland Pass, which was first reported by Arapahoe Basin ski patrol, according to a SCRG news release. The slide was a remotely triggered large slab avalanche initiated from around 200 feet away, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. A-Basin patrol could see tracks in and tracks out, and no response was required from SCRG.
Not long after — at about 2:30 p.m. — SCRG rescuers were called to assist Alpine Rescue Team for the rescue of a telemark skier caught and completely buried in an avalanche above the Loveland Ski Area. The skier reportedly exited the ski area to a saddle about 11,800 feet at altitude.
Fortunately, the slide was witnessed by a boarder who traversed a significant distance over to the debris field, the release stated. The skier was located quickly only because his ski pole was partially sticking out of the snow.
“A tragedy was averted by the heads up response of this one individual who was in the area,” said Charles Pitman, SCRG Public Information Officer, in the release. “The skier was not wearing an avalanche beacon and was skiing solo.
“Were it not for some considerable luck, the outcome could easily have been so much worse.”
Around the time the avalanche response was winding down, a report came in of a person on an inner tube who had sustained serious injuries, again in the vicinity of Loveland Ski Area. The tubing run apparently started on the ridgeline high above the ski area.
Three SCRG responders were able to get to the patient, along with ski patrol from Loveland Ski Area, the release stated. There was a Flight For Life helicopter still in the vicinity after the avalanche call. The helicopter was able to land in the vicinity of the call and take the injured person to Denver. The extent of the injuries to the tuber is not known, the release stated.
“The snowpack appears to be especially sensitive right now, and more snow is on the way,” said Pitman in the release. “Route selection is critical, but a person needs to maximize their chance of survival if caught in an avalanche.”
Pitman recommended backcountry skiers and riders should always ski with a companion and have the necessary equipment to effect an extrication if one is necessary. A beacon, shovel and probe pole could be the difference between life and death, the release stated, and riders should never venture into the backcountry alone.
“Without these, you might not be as fortunate as the skier yesterday,” Pitman said in the release.
The Summit County Rescue Group is an all-volunteer, nonprofit search and rescue organization that responds to backcountry emergencies in all weather conditions and all times of the year. In 2012 they dedicated more than 3,500 hours to respond to calls for assistance and more than 3,900 hours in training.
SCRG depends on grants and donations for training, equipment and to cover expenses. For more information, or to donate, visit www.scrg.org.