Your stories about ‘The Big One’ |

Your stories about ‘The Big One’


These following contributors ” some anonymous, some not ” on answered questions about where they were when the 1987 Peak 7 avalanche occurred. The time and date notes when they posted these today on the story regarding the 20th anniversary of the 1987 Breckenridge Peak 7 avalanche.

I worked in the admin offices at Peak 8 at the time of the avalanche. I remember the tense atmosphere once we heard the news about the slide and it started to circulate around the ski area. Since we were on Peak 8, we had a perfect view of the area, and how big this slide really was.

The media eventually took over our offices, and we were just there to assist in any way possible. The friends and family of the victums were waiting nervously around trying to get up to the minute information that was accurate. This event showed me that you can’t always believe what the media reports, as I saw several mistakes in reporting in their effort to get the first story of the day.

Overall, the experience was a lesson in how this community acts together. It has been shown time and time again over the years that we are a community that supports its residents and visitors in a selfless, caring manner.

I was skiing with my Dad that day. The folks rarely came to visit so it was a special day. I had triggered an avalanche a couple years prior. That experience was sobering and made an impression. As a result I spent all my time in-bounds because I didn’t know anything about snow safety. All day long I had a weird feeling that I should go to the T-Bar. We chose to stay on Peaks 9 and 10 but the lasting impression of that day was the nagging feeling that I should be lapping on Peak 7. I was done skiing when I got the news. I put my stuff back on and volunteered. I was put on a probe line and watched when another group discovered a victim. Lasting impression to be sure.

I found out later that about 8 of my friends who had been making laps out to Peak 7 were on the T-Bar heading around for another when the slide was triggered.

Lucky! None of us had a clue about snow safety. Most people had the “it will never happen to me attitude”. I was the same way until it almost happened to me. ” Jeff Westcott

I was a patroller at Breck at the time of the slide. I was riding the Quad chair returning to the Peak 8 Hut with a rescue sled. I watched the first skier of two skiers start skiing Peak 8 Bowl from the top. At the same time two skiers were standing on the traverse in the center of the Bowl. When the second skier at the top of the Bowl started down, the whole Bowl released. The two skiers on the traverse probably never new what hit them. I also had the duty of transporting the first body found to the base area down Northstar in the dark. ” Phil Turner, Breck Patrol Alumni

I well remember the big one! I had an apartment on High Street, Breckenridge. The morning following the avalanche I was watching the helicopters flying over Peak 7. At the same time I had the TV on ” the Today show was broadcasting an arial view live from the helicopter I was watching from my window!

I went up with other rescuers that day as a member of the Copper Mountain Ski Patrol. I was overwhelmed, first, by the immensity of the slide. More than that, I was amazed at the response form the community and surrounding ski areas. As I boarded the lift, photographers from the Denver Post and Sports Illustrated both encouraged me to take some of their film with me as they had noticed my camera and they, themselves, were not allowed to go to the avalanche site at that time. It was surreal in many ways and a truly humbling experience to see so much avalanche debris knowing that there were people buried. ” Bob Winsett

I was a sixth-year instructor at Breckenridge. I remember being on chair No. 2 and watching what looked like two groups of skiers doing laps on Peak 7.

It was a Colorado blue sky kind of day. As I watched these groups ski I was thinking that who ever was skiing out there had a lot of guts, nice tracks but a lot of guts. I had seen the signs posted warning skiers of the danger.

As I was sitting on that chair talking, this sense of disbelief flooded me. I remember saying to my sister “Oh, my god Peak 7 just slid.” There are people out there, how many I wasn’t sure. I knew I had to go help. I wasn’t sure what to do; I had never been in any kind of rescue before. I just knew I needed to offer my help. As I arrived to the base of Peak 7 the patrol was amazing. They helped organize those of us that had arrived; I was shown how to probe, put into a group in the debris shoulder to shoulder and began searching. This whole experience was surreal.

I remember a helicopter hovering up hill from our group as we were probing. As I looked up at what was left of the cornice which was still quite big I was thinking “If that slides we are in a very bad place” I wanted the helicopter to leave.

I can not remember how long I was there. When I left it was dark, we were all sad, tired and cold. Someone had a headlamp and offered to ski down with me. I got home and cried.

As the years have gone by, I have never lost respect for Peak 7. Hiking the first time once it was part of the area was an eerie feeling. I hiked it slow and at the top I stood and thought about that day in February 1987. I still can not ski over there without thinking about that day 20 years ago. ” Jan “Abbott” then “Degerberg” now

I was riding the Colorado chair with my friends, Martha and Deb, when Peak 7 slid. We never noticed a thing; we got off the chair and headed over to the T bar where, for the 1st time all day, we had to wait in line to go up.

Then we heard about the slide. We immediately looked toward Peak 7 and it was covered in clouds. We all gasped when the clouds lifted and saw the slide area. The entire bowl slid. Deb and Martha were on the ski patrol at Breck., so Deb immediately went with patrol to the base of the slide on a “hasty search” team.

Martha needed to take pictures of the slide area for patrol’s investigation. The T bar was started up again for Martha, and she and I rode it to the top. There was no one else but the two of us at the top of the mountain. We skied down Deb’s or Vertigo as far as we could go until we met the debris. I had never seen anything like it.

My husband was a former ski patroller and I had heard about the consistency of the snow after an avalanche. This stuff was like volkswagon-sized concrete blocks. It was difficult to even walk over the blocks of snow. The area around the Peak 8 patrol hut was busy, buzzing with snow mobiles, skiers heading out with probes. I had a one year old son at day care, Derf was at turf grass school at U Mass and I needed to get home. It was difficult to leave everyone and not help in some way.

I was making some laps on the T-bar with one of my best friends, Martha Moran. We had been over to the gate to look at Peak 7. There was a big sign saying the conditions were not stable and there had been a number of slides recently … enter at your own risk and there was a skull and cross bones prominently displayed (right?).

Turk and I had lived and worked in Breck and were visitng from the east, Martha was a Breck patrolwoman on her day off. We knew a lot of people skiing 7 that day. It looked inviting but Martha said “I’m not going out there today, I know better and if something happened it would not look good”. I agreed. It just did not feel like the right place to be. We did not see the slide and we were just pulling into the T-bar when Nick Payne and a group of patrolmen come up saying that there had been a slide. Martha and I grabbed the tail rope of a ski mobile and found ourselves at the bottom of the biggest slide I had ever seen.

Thick, cold, dense snow, tons if it. Probing was a guessing game, what was it I was feeling? I’ve though about that slide frequently. Martha and I always remember it together. Reading the articles today really put a lump in my throat. I felt very proud of the patrol and the community. The patrol practiced for such an event and when it happened they did a great job. A lot of people (locals and visiotrs, my brother in law from Massachusetts)jumped in and stayed for days, probing. We all hoped for a live recovery but then we just hoped to recover the bodies. It was an unreal experence, one not to be forgotten. ” Deb Crook

I was a snowcat driver working for Kevin B.and Barbara T. at Peak 9 restaurant on Peak 9. After the slid happened, I was asked to go to the bottom of Peak 9 and pick up all available ski school instructors that wanted to go and help. I didn’t have room for everyone. I don’t remember how many instructors loaded into the rear of the snow cat ,but there were many of them. The entire back of the snow cat was full. We were sitting 4 strong in the front seat that was meant for only 2. we arrived at the base of Peak 7 and everyone did what they had to do to try and help look for the victims of this tragic avalanche accident. ” Jerry K., cat operator Peak 9 restaurant employee

To view the article and video titled “The Big One”, click this link:

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