Monday, November 07, 2005

Year's first avalanche death

Sam Teetzen was snowboarding just east of Berthoud Pass Sunday when he set off a large snow slide that buried and killed him and his dog. Seems pretty early for avalanches. The NFL isn't even to the playoffs yet, but this early season snow can be very tricky. It has no base to attach to. Often, it slides all the way down to the dirt.

Here's the take from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center from yesterday afternoon:
"This morning, there were several sizable avalanches on Berthoud Pass, in the Mines Paths. At least one person was caught and killed. The second slide was triggered by a group responding to the first. The slides were three feet deep and ran about 1500 vertical feet. The paths are north and several forecasters are on the Pass, and will provide details as soon as possible.

"Westerly winds have turned yesterday's powder into an avalanche problem. The snow has been loaded onto a shallow, weak snowpack. It's like stacking 2 x 4s on top of Dixie cups?you can do it, carefully, but it doesn't take much to topple your stack. Compounding the problem is that these stacks may be the only place to ski or ride, and an early season thought pattern. The wind and sun has stripped snow off many places, reducing choices of places to go. Really pay attention to the terrain, because if there is enough snow to keep you off the ground, there is enough snow to slide. Do not your early season eagerness, and the thought "there's not much snow," short circuit your avalanche awareness. Poke, prod, and test the snow frequently. Avoid being on or below steep slopes and wind pillows. Use your inclinometer. It is good to re-calibrate your eye at the beginning of every season. Travel safely, exposing only one member of your party at a time."


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