Snowboarders caught in avalanche, fight off moose near Aspen
Three snowboarders were caught in an avalanche in Maroon Bowl on Monday, then two of them had to fight off multiple attacks from a moose after self-rescuing from the slide.
One of the snowboarders suffered a broken rib and a strained back after getting pinned against a tree and covered with snow in Maroon Bowl, according to Blase Reardon, forecaster for the Aspen Zone of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Reardon talked to the victim by phone and posted a report on the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website Tuesday.
Reardon was in the field Wednesday and couldn’t be reached for additional comment about the incident or the identity of the snowboarders. Maroon Bowl is just outside the boundary of Aspen Highlands ski area. It shares the same ridge as Highland Bowl.
The snowboarders were on a northerly slope of Maroon Bowl at an elevation of about 10,650 feet, according to the report. They were filming higher in the bowl earlier in the day. Right before the slide all three entered a slope. The victim, whose name wasn’t available, told Reardon they “got lazy” and didn’t follow their usual protocol of entering the slope one at a time.
“About 300 vertical feet below the ridge and just below a big tree that was near a convexity, the slope avalanched,” Reardon wrote in his report. “It broke above them and all three were caught and carried several hundred feet down the slope.”
One snowboarder was partially buried and a second was buried to his waist, Reardon wrote, based on the victim’s comments. The third rider was injured after he was pinned against a tree.
“He was able to move one hand and break an opening to the surface,” Reardon’s report said. “He may have been able to clear some snow from his face. His companions told him he was turning blue when they got to him.”
The accident occurred the day before a man was killed in an avalanche on the Flat Tops.
The three snowboarders self-rescued from Maroon Bowl by side slipping, crawling on all fours and pushing the injured man on his board, Reardon continued. Once they reached Maroon Creek Road, which is closed for the winter and covered in snow, one of the snowboarders went to T-Lazy-7 Ranch to get help.
The challenges weren’t over for the injured man and his companion. While waiting they were charged by a moose — three times, according to the statements made to Reardon. The T-Lazy-7 crew helped them to their vehicle and they drove themselves to Aspen Valley Hospital, Reardon wrote.
Conditions in the Aspen zone were rated as moderate below, near and above treeline Wednesday, but Reardon wrote in his discussion of the conditions that special circumstances exist.
“In the bigger picture, though, the terrain where the slide occurred is one of the two most notable aspects of Monday’s accident,” Reardon wrote on the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website. “The slope shares many features with those where other incidents have occurred since late January, including Tuesday’s fatal accident in the Flat Tops.”
The areas with slide activity have been around 10,500 feet, northerly, convex and several hundred feet below the ridgeline.
“Sear those characteristics into your brain so your spidey senses tingle and you reflexively avoid similar slopes,” Reardon concluded.
Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands were experiencing issues with slides this week due to temperatures that stayed above freezing three nights in a row and climbed into the 40s and 50s during the day. Steep terrain on the lower slopes of Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands was closed Tuesday due to the threat of wet slides, according to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. A snowboarder who was on Aspen Mountain on Tuesday said some trails in the Dumps as well as the Bingo-Jackpot area was closed.
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Aspen Sister Cities members dedicated a plaque in Sister Cities Plaza to Don Sheeley, who served as president of the organization from 1998 until his death in 2017.