Deadly slides since ’90 |

Deadly slides since ’90

Aspen Times Staff

Editor’s note: This article by staff writer Janet Urquhart on avalanches in the backcountry surrounding town appeared in The Aspen Times Weekly in January 2004. It is excerpted here.Since the winter of 1990-91, avalanches in the Aspen vicinity have claimed more than a dozen lives. Those fatal slides, gleaned from the archives of the Times with help from the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office, include:• March 1991 – Lynne Durr, a Castle Creek Valley resident, died in a massive natural slide that ripped down Leahy Peak near the Pine Creek Cookhouse. The heavy snow in the Castle Creek Valley, south of Aspen, apparently broke loose under its own weight, burying Durr as she skied along Castle Creek Road.• June 1992 – Brent and Marcellene Cameron, of Colorado Springs, were members of a party climbing South Maroon Peak when a late-season avalanche carried them down the mountain. They were in a narrow snow chute on the north face of the peak when a slab broke loose and slid an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 feet. The two weren’t buried, but were killed by the impact of falling against the rocks.• February 1995 – Doug Hamilton, 26, of Ohio, was buried in his tepee in the Conundrum Valley. His body was recovered days later, still in his tepee, beneath 8 feet of snow.• January 1996 – David Koztoski, 38, of Aspen, snowmobiled with a companion into McFarlane’s Bowl, located off Richmond Ridge on the back of Aspen Mountain, to ride powder. Both were experienced backcountry skiers and were wearing avalanche beacons, according to news reports. Koztoski was caught in a slide; his body was found the next day, about 600 yards down the bowl.• January 1996 – Anton Valerin, a native of Romania residing in Denver, was killed from injuries he suffered in a slide down Pyramid Peak while climbing the fourteener with three companions.• January 1999 – Larry “Lonnie” Moore, 45, of Missouri Heights, was skiing in the backcountry below Steeplechase at Aspen Highlands with a companion when he was killed in an avalanche. Both men were described as veteran backcountry skiers, but the avalanche rating at the time was high. Rescuers who retrieved his body the next day had to “bomb their way out” of the terrain, using explosives to trigger additional slides and make their own passage safe for travel.• January 2000 – Carl “Chip” Johnson, 37, of Snowmass Village, died skiing in a narrow gulch in Hurricane Basin, above Little Annie Road on the back of Aspen Mountain. An experienced backcountry skier, he was skiing alone when the snowpack gave way. He was found buried in 6 feet of snow at the bottom of the gulch.• March 2000 – Aspenites John Roberts, 30, and Michael Hanrahan, 49, part of an experienced group of six skiers, were killed in a slab avalanche in Tonar Bowl above the Maroon Creek Valley. Traumatic injuries caused their deaths.• February 2002 – Robert Littlewood, 67, of Park City, Utah, died in what was more anomaly than avalanche, though he was asphyxiated in loose snow. He was skiing at Aspen Highlands when he took an apparently nasty fall that left him incapacitated. He slid out of bounds and the small amount of snow that slid with him left him buried and unable to breathe. Had he not been otherwise injured, Littlewood could have sat up and brushed off the snow, a resort spokesman noted at the time.• March 2002 – Two individuals were killed in separate avalanches on the same day – one just out of bounds on Aspen Mountain and the other near the Lindley Hut, south of Ashcroft.James Ellis, 63, of Fort Collins, was one of a party of 10 people staying at the hut. He was out skiing on a moderate slope when the terrain above him broke loose. The avalanche swept him into a tree, killing him and injuring two companions.Dana Martino-Spencer, 39, of Chicago, ventured through a backcountry gate on Aspen Mountain. Described as a frequent Aspen visitor and expert skier, she was alone when she triggered a soft-slab avalanche in a steep gully below Pandora’s Box and suffocated under 5 feet of snow.

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