Rescue workers search slide path near Loveland Pass
December 30, 2005
SUMMIT COUNTY – Working in twilight and under a brewing storm, a two-man search and rescue team scoured an avalanche zone near Loveland Pass Friday evening after getting a report of a possible burial.The avalanche was reported at about 3:45 p.m., according Mike Schmitt, public information officer for the search and rescue group. Schmitt said the slide, on a prominent and dangerous avalanche path known as the Professor, was about 75 feet wide and fractured about two feet deep. The popular backcountry run is visible from Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, just across U.S. Highway 6.The slide path has historically run all the way to the valley floor and even spilled across the A-Basin parking lot. Another triggered avalanche and a narrow escape was reported in the same area about two weeks ago, fracturing near the top of the path and running more than two-thirds of the way down before petering out in a run-out zone above the highway.Schmitt said other backcountry skiers in the area reported the avalanche to the Arapahoe Basin ski patrol, with tracks going into the slide, but none coming out.Officials called off the search in fading light at about 5 p.m., still unsure if there was a buried victim. Schmitt said dangerous conditions discouraged additional search efforts.”There’s way too much hangfire for anyone else to go in there,” he said, referring to the potential for additional avalanches from above the search area. “We’re basically calling it off until somebody calls us and tells us their buddy is missing.”Schmitt said backcountry travelers should let authorities know if they’ve triggered a slide even if no one is buried so that search missions aren’t launched unneccesarily.”If you set off a slide you won’t be arrested. Call it in to non-emergency dispatch, that way resources aren’t wasted,” Schmitt said.The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is rating the avalanche hazard as “considerable” in the area, with pockets of “high” danger on slopes near and above treeline on north to east to south aspects. Triggered releases are possible to probable on steep, wind-loaded slopes. More snow and wind is forecast in the next few days, so the avalanche danger is not expected to subside anytime soon.