Man injured in slide west of A-Basin remains in hospital |

Man injured in slide west of A-Basin remains in hospital

SUMMIT COUNTY – A Fairplay man is in fair condition after surgery Friday at Vail Valley Medical Center.

Russel Sikorsky, 31, reportedly suffered a broken leg in an avalanche west of Arapahoe Basin Thursday.

Sikorsky was telemark skiing with Tim Putz of Frisco, Garrett Seal and Kenneth Carl Ratcliff of Montezuma. According to rescuers and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, the quartet left A-Basin, traversed Porcupine Ridge and attempted to cross the Rock Garden south of U.S. Highway 6 when the avalanche occurred.

The skiers were reportedly crossing the area in two-minute intervals. Sikorsky and Ratcliff were caught in the slide. Seal climbed a tree when he heard the sound of trees snapping. Putz escaped the avalanche and called rescuers.

Ratcliff, 30, was conscious when rescuers reached him, but his condition deteriorated. Rescuers began CPR, but Ratcliff was pronounced dead later Thursday night at Keystone Medical Center. An autopsy is scheduled for today, the Summit County Coroner said. Ratcliff was an avid extreme skier known as a regular at A-Basin.

The avalanche was on a slope of 35-40 degrees, which forced rescuers to perform a technical rope rescue that lasted about four hours. Agencies including the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Snake River Fire, Summit County Search and Rescue, Summit County Ambulance, as well as Keystone and Arapahoe Basin ski patrols helped retrieve the men.

Nick Logan, an analyst with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, interviewed the survivors after the catastrophe. Logan said the men were experienced skiers, checked the avalanche report before going out and even discussed the avalanche risks during the trek.

“They went into thicker timber in that area thinking it would reduce the risk,” Logan said. “But their weight tipped the balance. It’s too bad.”

Logan said other skiers left tracks in the same general area the same day. He urged skiers to stay away from the backcountry until the new snow has had time to stabilize. The avalanche center listed the Tenmile and Gore ranges in “considerable” danger for slides on Friday, and “high” and “extreme” danger were reported for areas from Loveland and Berthoud passes and east. More than 100 avalanches were reported in the 48 hours before Friday morning.

“Each decision is personal – it’s what it’s worth to you,” said Mike Schmitt, search and rescue public information officer. “But a lot of times, especially in these conditions, people don’t weigh the options they way they should. They’re making decisions for us, too.”

Schmitt said it’s hard to anticipate what might happen this weekend with more snow in store and an expected pent-up demand from Front Range skiers likely to head to the High Country.

“It does concern us with the way the snowpack is,” Schmitt said. “When the radio says don’t go into the backcountry, there’s a reason – and it’s not because they’re trying to steal your powder stash.”

Snowpack and weather conditions

Summit and Eagle counties: (970) 668-0600

Aspen: (970) 920-1664

Durango: (970) 247-8187

Crested Butte: (970) 349-4022

Recorded avalanche information for Summit, Eagle counties

(970) 668-0600

To report an avalanche

CAIC Breckenridge office (970) 547-0056

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or

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