Three skiers were caught in an avalanche in the Snowmass backcountry Tuesday. All three were OK, though they were apparently not traveling with self-rescue gear.And in the last week, skiers triggered at least five avalanches in the Highlands backcountry, and at least two more off Aspen Mountain.”The rewards are there, and so are the risks,” Dick Jackson, owner/guide of Aspen Expeditions, said Wednesday. “It’s not a time to be aggressive. Be really careful with your terrain selection and your group.”The three skiers in Tuesday’s avalanche were in the West Willow Basin area. The slide was 50 to 75 meters wide, 6 inches deep at the crown and then stepping down to almost 3 feet deep. It ran about 600 vertical feet, according to a local backcountry skier familiar with the incident.”Blatant ignorance,” the skier said. “If people are going into the backcountry, they oughta at least have the right equipment and some knowledge.””You can’t protect people from themselves and everybody has the right to go, but at the same time it’s frustrating when you think people might be dodging bullets. They’re not even savvy enough to be relatively safe backcountry travelers.”Over the weekend at Highlands, a snowboarder triggered a Class II-plus sized slide (on a scale of five) in Maroon Bowl. Farther out the Highlands ridge, a solo skier kicked off a Class I in a gully known as Desolation Row. And on Friday, an experienced group triggered a Class III-plus (1 to 5 feet deep, 800 feet wide and 1,200 feet in length) in Big Daddy. Off Ajax, runs known as Kings and Kinos also ran.”Worrisome signs,” one Highlands local said.”It’s a tricky time of year,” Jackson added. “You’re starting to see tracks all over the place, and that attracts people. But some people just follow. And that gets people in trouble. I wouldn’t want to steer someone someplace unless they’re really, really experienced.”
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