Friend rescues local man from Berthoud avalanche
A local backcountry skier triggered a 300-foot wide avalanche in Second Creek near Berthoud Pass on Sunday and lived to ski another day.
Witnesses reported that the slide was 400 feet from the crown. It took place around 1 p.m. on Jan. 1.
The skier made six turns, then about 100 feet into the run, he triggered the slide and was buried up to his face, according to Greg Foley, public information officer for Grand County Search and Rescue. The skier was swept down and over at least one rock band, and then buried in the debris. He was able to yell for help loudly enough that a beacon search was not needed, but he was carrying one, Foley said.
“They had all the right gear,” Foley said.
A witness near the Second Creek cabin saw the avalanche and called 911.
Search and Rescue mobilized and activated the Flight For Life Avalanche Deployment Team, which responds by helicopter to backcountry avalanche emergencies with an avalanche technician, a search dog and a dog handler. However, they were not deployed because the skier was quickly rescued by his skiing partner, and only the medical helicopter Flight For Life was required.
Twenty Search and Rescue members responded to the rescue with medical gear. However, the medical helicopter was able to land near the Second Creek hut and evacuate the skier to a medical facility before Search and Rescue arrived on the scene.
Every morning Search and Rescue members track conditions in the backcountry, Foley said. The Backcountry Avalanche forecast reported moderate danger on Sunday morning, which means skier-triggered avalanches are possible in certain areas.
“Be safe out there,” Foley cautions. “Travel with a friend and carry a beacon, probe, and shovel – and know how to use them.”
The skier is reported to be doing well, according to a Jan. 2 statement released by Grand County Search and Rescue.
County officials say they never got the name of the skier caught in the avalanche, though one Denver news outlet reported him as “Matt from Fraser Valley.” The GCSAR statement ID’d him as a 36-year-old male.
Recent weather activity was associated with reactive wind slabs, according to the Backcountry Avalanche Forecast for the Front Range, issued on Jan. 3 by Scott Toepfer. The Colorado Avalanche Information website states: “Expect to find built-up slabs on north through east to south aspects. Look for localized, variable, and cross-loaded drifting patterns on each slope. You need to evaluate steep slopes individually, and look for clues about local drifting patterns. The wind slabs are not likely to be large, but as Sunday’s event shows, there are some larger slabs lurking in the backcountry.”
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Editor’s note: The following letter to the community was submitted to the Sky-Hi News by Winter Park Mayor Nick Kutrumbos.