Frisco skier triggered avalanche on second run
January 21, 2013
The Frisco resident who died in an avalanche near Marble last week triggered the slide after he ventured too far into unstable terrain on the second run of the day.
A detailed report of the Jan. 13 avalanche states James Lindenblatt, 37, and his group had scouted the terrain at Raspberry Creek where the slide was triggered the week before and earlier that same day and found no instability on the right side of the slope.
Lindenblatt and another skier had explored the area on Jan. 6 and earlier on Jan. 13. Lindenblatt’s companion had also skied the terrain they called the “Cul de Sacs” on Jan. 9 without incident, according to the report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).
Early season snowfall created a weak base layer in the area, which was loaded with additional snowpack during a series of storms through November. Experts suspect the avalanche that killed Lindenblatt was caused by a slab of snow formed by sub-zero temperatures the week before the incident and then buried under another layer of snow in a storm Jan. 11.
On their first run Jan. 13, one member of the group reported creating “spider web” cracks in the snow when he ventured too far to the left, where the slope was shaded and wind-loaded.
“This observation further reinforced their plan to stay rider’s right in the terrain feature, where the rest of the group descended without incident,” the report states.
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Lindenblatt was the third skier in his group of four to drop onto the slope on the second run, but he veered left of the tracks made by the two friends who descended ahead of him. As he neared the location where one of the other skiers was spotting him, he reportedly made a hard left and triggered a shallow slab.
Seeing the disturbance, Lindenblatt’s friends yelled for him to go left to get out of the slide, but by that time he was turning right and heading into a gully with the slide. As Lindenblatt attempted to make a hard left, the avalanche stepped down releasing a deeper weak layer of snow and he was swept up in the debris down toward the valley floor.
The initial shallow slab was approximately 85 feet wide, but only 12 inches deep, but the secondary persistent slab was roughly 2 feet deep, according to the report. The avalanche ran an estimated 1,100 vertical feet.
Lindenblatt was carried past his spotters to the valley floor where he was completely buried. His friends followed immediately after him and using beacons, probes and shovels were able to locate and dig up his body within minutes of the slide, according to the report. He was unresponsive and didn’t have a pulse, but two members of the group stayed with him to perform CPR while the fourth skinned back up the hill and skied out to go for help. There was no cellphone service in the area.
As it began to get dark, the two remaining members of the group agreed they needed to use the remaining daylight to get themselves out of the valley.
“They) had some hard decisions to make in Raspberry Creek,” the report states. “With nightfall and much colder temperatures imminent, they made the hard choice to leave their friend and find their way out of difficult terrain.”
Lindenblatt’s body was recovered the next day.
He was the second skier to be killed in an avalanche in Colorado this season.
Current avalanche danger is rated moderate, the second-highest level on a five-tier scale, in the Vail and Summit County zone.
Up-to-date avalanche information and the complete report on the Raspberry Creek slide are available online at