Survivor triggered deadly avalanche

Aspen Times StaffAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Tuesday’s avalanche that killed two men was triggered by the surviving skier, according to a report by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.The report, which the CAIC released Wednesday night, said the three men checked the center’s website before the hike. Though the avalanche center warned of deep instability at or above treeline on north, northeast and northwest slopes, the men were on a north-facing slope at treeline when it slid. The survivor, Jason Luck, 33, of Arvada, was in alpine touring gear and in the lead when he remotely triggered a large avalanche on the main northwest-facing part of Mount Shimer at 1:50 p.m., the report said.As the larger avalanche slid, a smaller slide on a north-facing slope was triggered around the three men and carried them off. Luck traveled 100 feet. But Alexis Dodin, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Simon Ozanne, of Maplewood, N.J., slid farther and were uncovered 800 feet below the crown, buried 100 feet apart. One was found 7 feet below the surface, and the other 3.3 feet below the surface, the report said. Both Dodin, 32, and Ozanne, 35, were on split snowboards. Luck found and unburied both Dodin and Ozanne using avalanche beacons that all three were wearing. He then used a cellular phone from one of the victims to call 911 about one hour after the initial slide. When rescuers arrived, both Dodin and Ozanne were dead.The larger avalanche was a slab slide on old snow – large enough to destroy cars and break trees – with a crown at 12,000 feet. The smaller avalanche, which killed Dodin and Ozanne, was on a north-facing slope at 11,800 feet and slid 800 vertical feet. The report said the crown on the slab avalanche was 165 feet wide and 2 to 2 1/2 feet deep. The snowpack at the accident site showed a total snow depth of 5 feet. The weak layer was roughly 2 millimeters of faceted snow at a depth of 2 1/2 feet. The report noted that other avalanches in the area, which were observed during the week before this avalanche, had the same weak layer slide. The report notes that the men were “well prepared” for self-rescue, stating that they all had beacons, probes and shovels. Further, the three dug a pit to check for instability. Though the avalanche danger rating in the Roaring Fork Valley on Tuesday was “moderate,” the CAIC had warned of “persistent weak layers and deep instabilities on steeper northwest, north and northeast aspects near and above treeline.”