colorado's First 2019 fatal Avalanche Accident is first fatality for silverton avalanche school
Anyone planning on "playing" in our beautiful backcountry should be mindful of avalanche dangers.
A recent forecast shows Considerable Danger for the South San Juan Region as of Press time, however, conditions change rapidly and should be checked at the time of your outing.
The most up to date information on avalanche forecasts for the backcountry are on the CAIC website.
Forecast from January 8 (CAIC) shared for the purpose of example and should not be taken as the current forecast:
"Recent storm snow has built fresh slabs stressing buried weak layers. The thickest, stiffest, and most dangerous slabs are on northwest to east through southeast-facing slopes due to loading from strong southwest winds. Avalanches have recently been triggered from the bottoms of slopes, from adjacent slopes, or from a distance and these avalanches can break in surprising ways. A slide triggered near the surface can break on deeper weak layers. "Avalanches in the storm snow could break up to four feet thick. Anticipate deeper and stiffer drifts on higher elevation slopes that are open and prone to wind-loading. Cracking, collapsing, and recent avalanches are all signs of dangerous conditions and suggest avoiding slopes over 35 degrees.
"Be heads up for loose dry sluffs in steeper terrain today from warmer temperatures and abundant new snow. Some of these slides could run far enough to trigger a slab in recent storm snow or step down to deeper weak layers. These slides could be problematic above cliffs or gullies where snow can pile up quickly. Look for rollerballs or pinwheels to identify where new snow is becoming unsta-
ble. You can find generally safer conditions on lower-angled, wind-sheltered slopes.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center and Silverton Avalanche School confirm in separate press releases that on January 5, 2019, a skier was caught, buried, and killed in an avalanche in Senator Beck Basin, on Red Mountain Pass.
This is the first Fatal Accident caused by Avalanche in Colorado for 2019.
The skier was part of a class taking a Recreational Level 2 American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education Avalanche Course.
Investigations by the CAIC and School were delayed due to the storm, but are expected to be completed, despite the fact that some of the clues to what may have happened could be buried under new snow.
It was speculated that the avalanche set off for training may have led to a second one in the path of the skier. However, until investigators review the snow and perform their analyses, there can be no confirmation.
This accident marks the first occurrence of a fatality for Silverton Avalanche School in its 27 year history. The other members on the mountain returned safely.
"This tragic accident impacts all of us and our deepest condolences go out to the family. Our number one priority at this time is ensuring the safety and well being of the family of the victim and the students and staff involved in the accident." (Silverton Avalanche School Press Release)
The Silverton Avalanche School is a non-profit avalanche educational organization that has been training personnel since 1962 on avalanche safety.
Silverton Avalanche School issued this statement:
"We would like to thank all of the first responders who aided in the rescue, San Juan County Search and Rescue, Ouray Mountain Rescue, La Plata County Search and Rescue, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and Careflight."