Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2002-03-14
Submitted By: Dale Atkins; CAIC
Place: Strawberry Gulch, East of Aspen Mountain
State: CO
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 skier caught, buried, and killed.

March 14, 2002

1 out-of-area skier caught, buried and killed

Provisional Report -- Report subject to change as

more information is learned.

Date & Time: March 14, 2002; shortly before 3:00 pm


Strawberry Gulch, East of Aspen Mountain, Pitkin


Elevation: 9,800 feet

Aspect: North-Northwest


On Thursday afternoon a backcountry skier was buried

and killed on the backside of Aspen Mountain. At about

2:30 the 39-year-old woman was last seen by a friend

leaving the ski area through a Forest Service

Backcountry Gate. At the gate--posted with a warning

sign--the friend turned back, but the victim continued.

At about 4:30 the victim's father notified the ski patrol

about the missing woman. A couple of ski patrollers

were sent to the gate and quickly found her track below

below the snowmobile-packed road (Loushine's Road)

that traverses back to the ski area. The victim's track

was easy to follow as it was the only track continuing

below the road. The woman continued down into a

narrowing gully. As she attempted to traverse from one

side of the gully to the other she triggered a soft slab

avalanche and was buried. The avalanche likely

occurred before 3:00 pm. She was found under 5 feet of

snow by probers at 7:15 pm.

The 4-foot deep soft slab avalanche released at about

9800 feet and fell 200 vertical feet on a NNW-facing

side of the gully. The slope angle was 45 degrees. The

ski patrollers called the spot a "prime terrain trap." The

bed surface was in the deep layer of depth hoar, about a

foot above the ground.

The woman was a frequent Aspen visitor and said to be

a good skier.

Atkins & Williams

(with input from Jim Hearn and Doug Driskell, AMSP)

March 15, 2002