Communication challenges in “terrain trap” contributed to deaths of three skiers in Colorado avalanche, report says
A final Colorado Avalanche Information Center report on the slide near Ophic Pass released Sunday provides details on the deadliest Colorado avalanche since 2013 capping a week where 15 backcountry travelers have died in slides across the U.S.
Communication challenges in a large group and a “terrain trap” were contributing factors in the deadliest avalanche in the state since 2013, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s report on the massive slide that killed three men near Ophir Pass in the San Juans on Feb. 1.
A skier who was buried but survived the avalanche on South Lookout Peak near Silverton that killed three of his friends described the torrent of snow that engulfed him like “a river.”
“I was fully under snow for approximately 15 to 25 seconds,” the unnamed skier told investigators with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which issued its final report on the deadly avalanche on Sunday.
The report described the challenge of moving a large group — this one was seven skiers — through avalanche terrain as well as how “small communication errors and misunderstandings can be amplified in large groups.”
Three men — Adam Palmer, Seth Bossung and Andy Jessen — were buried and killed in the avalanche. They were among a group of Eagle County locals visiting the Opus Hut. The crew had been skiing in the backcountry around Red Mountain Pass and skied out of Silverton Mountain’s helicopter on Sunday. They skied into the Opus Hut around 1 p.m. on Monday and spent about an hour at the remote cabin before venturing out for an afternoon tour.
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