|Back to accidents page
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Hurricane Gulch, near Aspen
Summary: 1 backcountry skier caught buried and killed
Avalanche victim mourned by friends
By Andrew Stiny/Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
Friends and co-workers Wednesday mourned the death of Carl
"Chip" W. Johnson, who died Tuesday afternoon when he was
caught in an avalanche while backcountry skiing on the backside
of Aspen Mountain, outside ski area boundaries.
Johnson, 37, of Snowmass Village, had been skiing alone in a
narrow gully in Hurricane Gulch when a 120 by 150 foot
avalanche swept him away at about 5 p.m., the Pitkin County
Sheriff's Office said. His body was recovered from beneath 6
feet of snow and resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful, the
sheriff's office said.
A Breckenridge man, 21-year-old Corin Limbaugh Rowe, also died
in an avalanche Tuesday while snowboarding near Arapahoe Basin
An avalanche warning issued Sunday for front range mountains
remains in effect through Wednesday and the hazard has been
increasing in the central mountains with a warning imminent if
another 6 to 10 inches of snow fall, the Colorado Avalanche
Information Center said.
One-hundred and six avalanches have been reported since Sunday
and there have been three avalanche deaths since Sunday.
Many of Johnson's co-workers at Aspen Sports in the Snowmass
Village Mall were in shock Wednesday.
"Everyone is pretty much taking the day off, it's been really
rough," Natalie Wayman said. "Everyone was really close to him,
we are all in shock."
Barry Farr echoed Wayman's sentiments.
"We are all definitely taking it really hard. He was a
fantastic guy," Farr said. "He was extremely popular up here in
the village -- everybody knew him."
Aspen Sports Manager Keith Long had worked with Johnson for 15
"He was an unofficial ambassador here, everybody knew him in
the mall," Long said. "He was a great guy, he was everybody's
friend, he helped everybody."
Long described his friend and co-worker as an experienced
backcountry, downhill and telemark skier and he attributed the
accident to the "wrong time, wrong place."
Although Johnson was skiing alone at the time of the avalanche,
he had been skiing with friends earlier Tuesday, Long said. "He
was doing some backcountry skiing with some friends and decided
to take a last run."
Long said Johnson's father, mother and other relatives were on
their way to Aspen from out-of-state. Johnson's brother Kirk is
a local. Farnum Holt Funeral Home of Glenwood Springs is in
charge of funeral arrangements, which have not been finalized.
A rescue effort was launched for Johnson after he failed to
meet his girlfriend in a parking area near Lower Hurricane Road
as previously arranged, the sheriff's office said.
Johnson's girlfriend lives near the accident area and "she knew
which house to go to for help," Pitkin County Sheriff's Deputy
Scott Thompson said.
According to Thompson, the girlfriend, who is not being
identified, summoned help from four local residents including
Annie Bollinger and Dan Bunta.
Bunta was taken to the top of the slide area by snowmobile and
"he skied down into it just following the tracks," Thompson
said. "He found the tracks going in ... but there were no
tracks going out and then he screamed down for help."
Bunta and the others started searching for Johnson with
avalanche probes. The residents, 10 Mountain Rescue Aspen
volunteers and an avalanche rescue dog recovered the body.
"More snowfall is expected over the next 24 to 48 hours and
will increase the avalanche danger," Wednesday's notice from
the Avalanche Information Center said.
"Some natural avalanche activity may be expected and human
triggered slides are likely. Backcountry travelers in the
warning area should avoid slopes steeper than 30 degrees and
stay away from steep slopes above. This statement is of
particular interest to persons using the backcountry outside
developed ski area boundaries," the notice said.