Summit County rescuers responded to three reported slides over the weekend. One involved the first rescue of the year in Summit.
Summit County Rescue Group (SCRG) received a call from dispatch just after 2 p.m. on Saturday, when a man said he had injured himself skiing in the backcountry. He reported he was in an open meadow on the west side of Bald Mountain, a popular area for winter sports. But the man was nowhere to be seen.
The man was partially buried, from the waist down, on Bald Mountain’s steeper, more avalanche-prone east side. With a slope of about 38 degrees — the northeast facing slope — and the fresh snow from Friday, it made for the perfect storm.
One rescuer skied down to assist the man, while a Flight For Life helicopter was able to land on a grassy knoll nearby, despite strong winds that evening. Other rescuers were unable to assist because avalanche danger was still high.
The man was extricated around 4:30 p.m., just as the sun went down, with several injuries. The man was flown to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and treated that evening.
SCRG responded to two additional avalanches over the weekend, with no additional injuries reported. On Sunday, Nov. 22, a slide was reported in the second steep gully west of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. The riders nearby were able to avoid the slide.
Just an hour later, another slide was reported at the top of Loveland Pass, with unknown burials. Rescuers responded with a Flight For Life helicopter, but, after an hour of investigation, they determined no one had been buried.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) Director Ethan Green noted that while avalanches have historically been reported at the beginning of the season, “the avalanches we saw on Saturday and Sunday were bigger than what we see this time of year.”
He said the large slides were all “persistent slab” avalanches, with recent storms forming a strong slab of snow on top of weaker snow from earlier this season. These types of avalanches can be trigged days or weeks after a snowstorm.
Backcountry users are advised to check conditions on the CAIC’s website daily before heading to the slopes. Skiers and riders are also advised to at minimum bring an avalanche beacon, transceiver and shovel, with Recco equipment and airbag packs also suggested.