A 20 year-old snowboarder died in an avalanche yesterday afternoon in the sidecountry terrain known as The Beavers, just West of Arapahoe Basin, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). For those of you familiar with the terrain, the slide and fatality occurred in The Beavers' Gully #1 (they're numbered from East to West) just South of US 6 at approximately 11,600 feet.
"Sidecountry" refers to lift-accessed backcountry terrain outside of ski area bounds. A separate avalanche in the area was remotely triggered yesterday morning, in Gully #4, and a skier triggered another in Gully #2 on Monday. It's the third Colorado avalanche fatality of 2010, but the first in this area in a decade: The last recorded fatality in the area was in 2000. [Update: Alan Henceroth, COO and General Manager at A-Basin notes, "To clarify the CAIC report that an avalanche in that area had been remotely triggered... That trigger was by another sidecountry skier, not explosives or other components of an avalanche control program" and provides a link to a SkiNet.com report on skiing in the sidecountry. "It's a really bad year to be heading out into the backcountry, I'm afraid. But the good news is we're really close to getting East Wall open in the next few days and there should be plenty of snow to be had in-bounds"].
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Here are some of the details of yesterday's avalanche and fatality, via the CAIC:
There is a convex knob in the middle of the starting zone for Steep Gully #1. The first rider triggered the avalanche as he rode over the knob. The avalanche broke to the ground along the convexity. The snowpack was very shallow, and rescuers estimated the average crown depth about 12 inches, and around 24 inches at the deepest. The avalanche was the full width of the gully, but left large areas of hangfire.
The rider was caught and carried for most of the avalanche's run. He was stopped by trees in the upper portion of the runout, and partially buried. His partners descended the path and used their snowboards to excavate him before organized rescue arrived. The avalanche broke trees approximately 6 inches in diameter.
The Denver Post has some more details, noting that the Smith County Coroner's office had not released the snowboarder's name as of early this morning but had identified him as "a 20-year-old from Spring Grove, Ill., who worked for Breckenridge Ski Resort and had lived in Colorado since November." Two friends reached him and were able to dig him out using snowboards as shovels, but he died later, according the report. Cell phone service in the area can be sporadic at best; The Post reports it took the survivors more than 20 minutes to get a signal to call for rescue assistance.