Littleton man survives slide |

Littleton man survives slide

SUMMIT COUNTY – Mike Bennett and his friends knew the dangers of backcountry snowboarding well. But Monday’s powder conditions got the best of them.

“The adrenaline took over,” said Jason Waite, who was snowboarding with Bennett when an avalanche buried his friend.

The three friends were snowboarding early Monday afternoon about a mile below Arapahoe Basin; the area is known among backcountry skiers as the Beavers. Waite said Bennett dropped into the snowy chute first, triggering the avalanche.

But Waite, Bennett and Dan Pedrow were all carrying avalanche transceivers, which likely saved Bennett’s life.

“We started just charging toward the signal,” Waite said. “His snowboard tip was sticking out of the snow.”

Waite said he and Pedrow found Bennett under two or three feet of snow.

“He had an open air pocket,” he said. “He was groaning.”

Waite thinks their friend was buried for about seven minutes. Bennett, 24, was breathing and unconscious when his friends first uncovered him, Waite said. But he regained consciousness and, with the help of volunteers from the Summit County Search and Rescue Group, walked out from the bottom of the avalanche path to an ambulance waiting along Highway 6.

Bennett broke his arm in the avalanche.

All three men had backcountry experience, Waite said. Waite and Pedrow both live in Summit County, and Bennett, who currently lives in Littleton, has plans to move here. Avalanche danger Monday was rated considerable below timberline, and high above, and Waite said they knew it.

“It’s always a risk,” he said.

“Their biggest mistake – glaring – is going out there today,” said Tim Flanigan, an Arapahoe Basin ski patroller who helped coordinate the rescue. “They made a poor decision with avalanche danger as it is. But they did a lot of things right in terms of rescue. They all had transceivers. He was found with a beacon, pretty quickly.”

And, Flanigan said, the friends stayed together.

All three were charged with violating the skier safety act. While backcountry skiing is legal, sheriff’s deputies said the three men didn’t use a backcountry access point designated by the National Forest.

Despite its happy ending, Summit County Search and Rescue volunteer Dan Burnett said he was discouraged by the need for Monday’s rescue.

“The people we go to rescue are (backcountry) experts,” he said. “They’re flirting with death. We’re very used to coming to this very same spot to haul up dead bodies. It’s disheartening people aren’t more responsible.”

Waite said he will go backcountry skiing again, but he’s learned, he said, to take more caution “and not drop in without testing it further.”

Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User