Last week, skiers exploring Breckenridge Ski Resort’s expert-level terrain triggered a slide on Whale’s Tail located at the summit between Peaks 7 and 8.
The avalanche occurred at approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 2, according to reports from witnesses in the area. Whale’s Tail, which had been closed, was opened for the first time this season shortly before the slide took place.
At least three people were caught in the avalanche, according to witnesses.
No guests or employees were injured during the incident, said Kristen Petitt Stewart, senior communications manager for Breckenridge Ski Resort, in an email. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is investigating the incident and Breckenridge officials said they plan to share the CAIC’s report with the public once it becomes available.
Brian Lazar, CAIC deputy director, did not have any details about the Whale’s Tail avalanche, saying Wednesday that investigators were redeployed to Vail to investigate a fatal avalanche in the East Vail Chutes. That slide claimed the life of Vail resident Tony Seibert, 24, the grandson of Vail founder Pete Seibert.
Any other reported slides at Breckenridge, including a large one Saturday in Imperial Bowl, were triggered in closed terrain and in conjunction with Breckenridge Ski Patrol’s daily avalanche mitigation efforts, Petitt Stewart said.
Breckenridge Ski Patrol conducts daily avalanche mitigation that includes ski cutting, in which the resort sends expert skiers down slopes in an effort to break loose unstable layers of snow, as well as the use of explosives to induce slides and terrain closures, Petitt Stewart said.
The ski patrol includes a team of experienced avalanche technicians with more than 150 years of combined experience, Petitt Stewart said. They oversee avalanche-prone terrain and monitor, organize and conduct daily avalanche mitigation. All are trained, certified and skilled rescue professionals.
Breck’s avalanche dog teams often are called on to help in statewide search-and-rescue efforts, she added.
“The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority and the expertise of patrol and their daily efforts is of the utmost importance, especially when it comes to managing terrain,” Petitt Stewart said in the email.