One person caught, uninjured in Highland Bowl avalanche near Aspen
A skier was caught in an avalanche Friday morning in Highland Bowl but uninjured after one of the biggest storms of the season dropped 16 inches of powder on Aspen area peaks Thursday, an official said.
The skier-triggered avalanche in the G8 zone was reported to emergency response officials between 9:50 and 9:55 a.m., said Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Sulek. Not long after, an MRA representative was able to speak on the phone with one of the skiers at the Bowl, he said.
“(He said) one person was caught in the slide and lost a ski, but was able to self-rescue,” Sulek said.
The skier was in a party of three, he said, though no one else was caught in the slide zone. He said the skier caught was the last of the three to drop into the run and then triggered the slide.
He estimated he was the 10th person to drop into that section of Highland Bowl, according to a news release issued Friday afternoon.
The party was one of many hiking Highland Bowl, Aspen Highlands Ski Area and other area ski mountains on a sunny Friday morning after Thursday’s all-day, monster spring snowstorm blanketed both town and the high peaks with more snow at one time than the upper Roaring Fork Valley has seen all season.
“(The fresh powder) drew everybody,” Sulek said. “People going in to the backcountry need to be strongly advised that conditions are unstable.”
He said another skier-triggered avalanche was reported in Snowmass on Hanging Valley Wall. No one was injured in that slide, he said.
MRA volunteers are on “high alert” Friday because of the conditions.
The danger of avalanches Friday was “considerable” in Colorado’s central mountains, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
A Pitkin Couty alert was sent Thursday afternoon warning of adverse conditions, including inside four Aspen area resorts, which have been closed since March 15 after the COVID-19 outbreak.
There has not been avalanche mitigation in the resort areas since March 14 because of the shutdown. Highland Bowl, which tops out at 12,392 feet, is inbounds skiing when the resort is open and receives a lot of avalanche mitigation work during the ski season.
“Due to heavy snowfall and the recent storm cycle, it is strongly recommended that you limit your uphill and downhill skiing and riding,” the alert said. “Exercise caution and judgment on and below high angle terrain. … Please treat the ski areas with the same care you would in the backcountry and stay aware of your surroundings at all times. You assume all risks when entering the ski areas. Call 9-1-1 for emergencies and rescues.”
In a news release Friday, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Mountain Rescue Aspen strongly urged skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers venturing into the backcountry “to exercise extreme caution with the current spring conditions. Extreme changes in temperature and new layers of snow throughout the spring cause unstable conditions that are ripe for avalanches.”
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