A U.S. Forest Service review of the two recent inbounds avalanche deaths at Colorado ski areas will be aimed at determining whether the resorts followed all required snow safety procedures required under their permits, and whether any changes are needed, according to Eagle/Holy Cross district ranger Dave Neely.
A skier was killed by a slide Sunday afternoon on the Mary Jane side of Winter Park Resort, and a 13-year-old died the same day in an avalanche at Vail Mountain. The review is being done in collaboration with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and the resorts.
The Vail ski patrol was working under difficult conditions Sunday, and again on Monday, with mass violations of closures on various parts of the mountain, according to a source familiar with the ongoing review of the accident. At one point on Monday, ski patrollers were reporting up to 60 simultaneous violations of closures in Siberia Bowl.
Last winter, the director of the Wolf Creek ski patrol died in an avalanche at the San Juan ski area during an avalanche control mission. A Jackson Hole ski patroller died from injuries suffered in a Jan. 2010 slide and a Boulder man died inbounds at A-Basin in 2005. There have been several other inbounds and sidecountry ski area avalanche deaths in Utah in the past few years.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center plans to meet with snow safety directors at Colorado ski areas to discuss avalanche control and risk management.
When skiers access inbounds terrain, consideration should be given to whether off-piste conditions will be encountered. Along with avalanches, powder-seeking tree skiers face a “non-avalanche immersion threat,” referring to the increased numbers of tree-well deaths, when skiers or boarders are simply trapped and suffocate in deep, dense snow.