Body of Aspen man killed in backcountry avalanche recovered
Adam Brady Dennis, 38, of Aspen, was killed in an avalanche Monday afternoon in an area between Maroon Bowl and Tonar Bowl, outside the boundary of the Aspen Highlands ski area, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said.
Members of Aspen Mountain Rescue retrieved Dennis’ body on Tuesday.
Rescue team members climbed the steep terrain on the east side of Maroon Creek Road to access the chute where Dennis’ body remained, using an aluminum ladder to bridge the creek. The chute empties into the Maroon Creek Valley about 2.5 miles above T-Lazy-7 Ranch and about a half-mile above the Forest Service visitor station along the road. The road, unplowed beyond the ranch during the winter, extends southwest from Aspen to Maroon Lake.
The first Mountain Rescue team left T-Lazy-7 via snowmobile at about 6:30 a.m. The recovery was complete shortly after 10:30 a.m.
Dennis was among five people who were skiing the backcountry, outside the Aspen Highlands ski area boundary. According to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, the avalanche occurred in South Maroon Bowl, on the west side of Highlands ridge. Dennis was reportedly the last of the five skiers to descend.
His companions located Dennis after the avalanche, but attempts to revive him using CPR were unsuccessful, according to the sheriff’s office. Authorities were notified of the incident at about 2:45 p.m. Officials with the sheriff’s office and Mountain Rescue decided the slope remained too unstable to launch a recovery effort Monday afternoon.
Tuesday’s recovery operation began at first light, after the snowpack had firmed up over night.
The accident occurred in an area known as Desolation Row, also known just as Desolation, a bowl regarded as one of the best lines for backcountry skiing in the Aspen area, according to a source familiar with the area. The bowl is on the west side of Highlands Ridge. Desolation provides about 4,000 vertical feet from the ridgetop to the Maroon Creek Valley floor. The slide reportedly started about one-third of the way down the bowl and carried a considerable distance, the source said.
None of the other four skiers were injured. The members of the group carried avalanche beacons,
One of the survivors is employed by a local backcountry guide company, but the group wasn’t on a commercial tour, deputy sheriff Adam Crider said. It was just some friends skiing together.
Dennis was buried, located by the others in the party and resuscitation efforts were started, Crider said. The victim couldn’t be revived.
Others in the party had a “very bad signal” from the mountainside and were able to call authorities by cell phone at 2:45 p.m., Crider said. They came off the mountain to the Maroon Creek Valley in two groups of two.
Dennis was a self-employed photographer and worked in the hospitality business, according to his Google profile. He was a passionate skier, biker, hiker and camper and loved the overall mountain lifestyle, he stated in the profile.
The avalanche danger was rated “considerable” near and above treeline in the Aspen zone Monday, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). “Triggered avalanches are likely in lee- and cross-loaded areas at these higher elevations,” the forecast said.
Monday’s slide victim was the sixth person killed in the Colorado backcountry by an avalanche this winter, according to CAIC. One of the prior victims was caught in a slide Feb. 22 in Sand’s Chute, above the East Snowmass Creek Valley, outside of Snowmass Ski Area.
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