Mud causes havoc on Buttermilk
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Waves of mud rumbled down the lower slopes of the Buttermilk ski area Monday, wiping out everything in their path, including a large section of a maintenance building at the base.
The initial slide occurred about 2:30 p.m. Some Aspen Skiing Co. employees were working in the vicinity of the maintenance structure at the time, witnesses said. The Skico reported no injuries as a result of the incident, which happened to the skier’s left of the superpipe.
“[We were] all outside working on the side of the shed,” said Mac Dinnell, 18, when the first wave of water, mud, trees and rocks made its way down the slope and into the rear door of the building.
He said his first thought was to get out of the way, even though he had some equipment and other items inside the building. That included his two dirt bikes and a set of vehicle keys.
“I’m not sure how I’m going to get home,” said Dinnell, who has worked for the Skico about seven months.
The first slide also caused a 1,000-gallon tank of oil to roll over, leading to a small spill in the driveway area that fronts the structure. An environmental health officer from Pitkin County was called to the scene, though the spill seemed to be under control by the time she arrived.
Another slide followed at about 3:10 p.m. It wiped out a tool shed and ripped a gaping hole in the rear cinder-block wall of the building. One corner of the roof was also crumpled.
Cries of “watch out” could be heard coming from several observers as the mud came rushing down the slope. The slide was powerful enough that it pushed a number of items out through the front bay doors of the building and into the driveway.
That wave of mud was followed by yet another a couple of minutes later. With it came more trees, water, brush and rocks. Members of the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department and Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office mostly watched as the mud continued to ebb and flow.
Various pieces of equipment were stored in and around the maintenance building. Eventually, a snowcat was moved into position to pick up the Skico’s $125,000 pipe cutter ” used to groom the steep walls of the superpipe ” and move it out of harm’s way.
No damage estimate had yet been released by the Skico.
The slides created a gash in the hillside, at the bottom of the mountain and to the skier’s left of the superpipe, which looked to be about 50 feet wide and 30 feet deep.
Water from melting snow farther up the mountain apparently caused the slide, said David Bellack, senior vice president and general counsel for the Skico, who was on the scene along with various other company executives.
The slide also brought out a number of onlookers, including Lance Clarke, a planner with the Pitkin County Community Development Department.
Clarke said that he came out to view the scene out of curiosity, rather than in an official capacity.
“Frankly, I’ve never seen a landslide this closely after it happened,” he said. “Certainly, we know saturated slopes of a certain incline are always a concern. This is interesting.”
Go to http://www.aspentimes.com/photos for more images of the mudslide.