Aspen History: Horse Avalanche
“Intense excitement prevailed in the camp yesterday because of the report that R.R. Rodda sent down word at about 11 o’clock to the effect that sixteen horses had been caught in a snow slide between here and Independence and killed,” announced the Aspen Weekly Times on February 4, 1899. “The natural supposition was that some men had likewise perished, which fact caused excitement to run high. Mr. Rodda, in his message, had asked that a rescuing party be sent at once with shovels, so at 1 o’clock a goodly number on horseback, headed by Art Sams, took the trail and hastened to the scene with all possible speed. It was not definitely known whether the horses were coming from or going to Independence, and there was great uneasiness until a second message was sent saying no men had been killed. Because of the scarcity of feed Mr. George Frost had started his string of horses for Aspen Tuesday, thinking it far easier for them to get here than for feed to be freighted to them. Two boys, Godfrey and Barber, were trailing them, although they found it a difficult task. Had it not been for their presence of mind in taking refuge behind a huge boulder when they heard the rush coming, they would never have been able to tell the story. Fifteen of the horses were killed outright and one so badly hurt that it was shot. To the casual observer the loss would not seem very severe, but it is safe to say that they represented at least $2,500, for they were not only good draft horses, but well broke to the kind of work they were doing, which fact almost doubled their value.” The image above shows a draft horse in Aspen, circa 1900. (Aspen Historical Society)
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.