Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: Dale Atkins; CAIC
Place: Strawberry Gulch, East of Aspen Mountain
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
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