How a Breckenridge avalanche 35 years ago changed the trajectory of Colorado skiing |

How a Breckenridge avalanche 35 years ago changed the trajectory of Colorado skiing

The Peak 7 avalanche at Breckenridge on Feb. 18, 1987, killed four young men and triggered a debate over ski area boundaries, personal responsibility and acceptable risks

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
Peak 7 Bowl, at far right, is pictured at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Feb. 15. A large avalanche in the bowl killed four skiers who passed the ski area boundary gates with warning signs in February 1987.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

BRECKENRIDGE – It was sunny and cold on Feb. 18, 1987. Ski patroller Mary Logan remembers the snow squeaking beneath her skis as she rode the T-bar with patrol director Kevin Ahern.

They were watching two skiers atop Peak 7 in the Tenmile Range, just beyond the Breckenridge ski area boundary. They watched helplessly as the second skier triggered a massive avalanche. A cloud of cold smoke buried several skiers in the steep bowl.

“It was astonishing to see a slide that large,” Logan said. “It’s a sight I will never forget.”

The slow-motion disaster killed four men and forever changed Colorado skiing. It was a tragedy Logan, Ahern and many other patrollers were expecting for weeks. And it left an indelible mark on Colorado skiing.

The Peak 7 slide triggered sweeping changes in avalanche awareness, education and messaging. It created a regionwide, communal response to avalanches. It solidified a U.S. Forest Service policy to never close access between resorts and public lands. It set in motion a statewide expansion of ski terrain, with resorts opening steeper-and-deeper slopes that appealed to a new generation of powder-chasing skiers.

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