Ajax patroller buried in slide
December 3, 2005
An avalanche buried an on-duty ski patroller doing control work on a closed, inbounds run Saturday on Aspen Mountain.The apparently uninjured patroller, whose name was not being released, was rescued by fellow patrollers and taken to Aspen Valley Hospital as a precaution.The slide was triggered as the patroller was ski cutting about 2:30 p.m. on the Pinball run. The trail follows the line of the old FIS chairlift, adjacent to the current FIS lift.Patrollers were investigating on the mountain Saturday evening and it was not clear exactly where the avalanche started or how far it ran, said Jeff Hanle, spokesman for the Aspen Skiing Co. The victim was completely buried, though Hanle could not say for how long. Hanle said he could not recall another time when an on-duty patroller was caught in a slide on one of the Skico’s mountains.”It’s not unusual for us to do control work like this, and this is exactly why we do it,” Hanle said, “so it doesn’t happen when it’s open to the public.”Aspen Mountain was slammed by a large, moisture-laden storm Friday and Saturday. The mountain received more than 13 inches of snow, and the ski patrol was busy with control work most of the day.The Roaring Fork Avalanche Center on Saturday was reporting high backcountry avalanche danger above treeline and considerable danger at and below treeline.All aspects and elevations in the valley were at risk for natural and human-triggered avalanches, according to the center.”Not sure if my jitters this morning are from all the caffeine at such an early hour or from thinking about the avalanche conditions this morning,” avalanche forecaster Brian McCall said in his Saturday report.The Skico is asking that people respect closed areas on the ski mountains. More than 30 passes were pulled on opening weekend, Hanle said. “We want to thank the skiing and riding public for their patience today as we had extensive avalanche control work to perform after this storm,” said Steve Sewell, the mountain manager at Aspen Mountain. “This incident helps to drive home a very important point. It is imperative that people obey all closures.”For the latest backcountry avalanche forecasts in the area, visit the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center website at http://www.rfavalanche.org.