Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2000-01-25
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Hurricane Gulch, near Aspen
State: CO
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
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

ski area.

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

years.

"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.