Two snowboarders rescue themselves from recent snow slide in Billy’s Bowl
BRECKENRIDGE – Rescuers aren’t too pleased that two Canadians snowboarding in Billy’s Bowl outside the Breckenridge Ski Resort didn’t bother to let anyone know they’d successfully rescued themselves from an avalanche Sunday afternoon.Ski area communications manager Emily Jacob said ski patrollers noticed the slide – and two snowboard tracks in and none leaving the area – between Peaks 9 and 10 at 2:45 p.m. Avalanche conditions were so severe, patrollers had to blast the steep mountainside before they could even begin a search.Spencer Logan, an avalanche forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), said Billy’s Bowl typically loads heavily with snow. With the winds Summit County has had lately, the wind slabs generated would have been significant, he said. The avalanche was 3 feet deep and about 200 feet wide. Patrollers summoned the Summit Search and Rescue Group, staged them at the Peak 9 patrol hut and called Flight For Life from Denver to circle the area. It wasn’t until 5 p.m. that they found two pits in the debris field and two tracks leading out onto the dirt.And it wasn’t until Monday morning when the two snowboarders were boarding a plane to return home and talking about the incident that their group leader decided to let ski patrol know the duo was safe.”Anytime you’re involved in an avalanche in the backcountry, let people know,” said ski patrol director Kevin Ahern. “It’s not against the law to be in the backcountry. It’s not against the law to start an avalanche. But let people know.”The incident tied up rescue crews for more than two hours, rescue group public information officer Mike Schmitt said.”We had all our sleds, our truck up there,” he said. “If someone was injured down the street, it would be pretty hard to get there in a reasonable amount of time.”He said backcountry skiers and boarders who trigger avalanches don’t often report them.”I don’t know if they’re scared they’re going to get arrested or what,” Schmitt said. “They’re (law enforcement) not going to come out looking for you.”People caught in slides and who successfully self-rescue can report the incident anonymously, as well.”The avalanche danger was really high,” Jacob said. “And to put our patrollers and search and rescue into that position could have been deadly. Anything can happen.”Summit County wasn’t the only area where backcountry skiers were caught in slides Sunday.A skier suffered minor injuries after he triggered and was caught in a 3-foot-deep, 450-foot-wide slide that ran 600 feet down the slope on Red Mountain Pass near Silverton. The skier’s companion was able to get him out in seven minutes.But in Nellie Bowl outside the Telluride ski area, a skier triggered a 3-foot deep slide that carried him 1,800 feet through a rocky couloir. He is listed in critical condition, Logan said.No one has died in Summit County in avalanches this season.
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