2 slides in Highlands backcountry
Two skier-triggered avalanches left visitors to the Aspen Highlands backcountry shaken but unharmed this weekend.
The first slide, triggered in Maroon Bowl Friday afternoon by a skier and snowboarder, was rated as a size 3 – big enough to bury or destroy an automobile, Highlands patrol snow safety supervisor Kevin Heinecken said.
The skier and snowboarder are familiar with the dangers of skiing the backcountry, Heinecken said, but should have known about recent av-alanche dangers.
“The guys on Friday were very well-equipped and fairly knowledgeable backcountry travelers, but I have no idea what was going through their heads that day,” he said.
The second and slightly smaller slide happened below Temerity around 3:15 p.m. Saturday in the lower South Castle Chute, said Mac Smith, Aspen Highlands ski patrol director. This avalanche, started by three snowboarders, was given a rating of 2.5.
“Those people were contacted by ski patrolmen on the way out and warned of the danger,” Heinecken said.
The U.S. Forest Service’s Avalanche Advisory reported Sunday that backcountry areas near and below treeline are given a “considerable” rating for avalanche danger, while areas above treeline have “high” danger. The advisory also warned of numerous natural releases Saturday, including one that left 20 feet of snow on Maroon Creek Road.
Authorities in Vail are also warning backcountry travelers of avalanche dangers after a man driving a snowmobile was buried by a slide around 1:20 p.m. Friday. The man was not injured despite being buried for almost 20 minutes.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.