Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: CAIC; Atkins & Logan
Place: Porcupine Peak, Loveland Pass
Summary: 2 skiers caught and carried. 1 injured, 1 killed
Porcupine Peak, Loveland Pass, Front Range,
March 20, 2003
2 Out-of-Area Skiers Caught, 1 Injured and 1 Killed
A party of four skied out-of-area off the backside of Arapahoe Basin on Thursday morning. That afternoon the four left Arapahoe Basin via a US Forest Service access gate and traveled westward into the backcountry toward Porcupine Peak to do some backcountry skiing on the US Hwy 6 side of the ridge. After skiing they planned to cross the N Fork of the Snake River, climb some 100 vertical feet to the highway and hitch hike back to Arapahoe Basin.
The group carried beacons and shovels, first aid kits, extra gear, etc. and had even discussed the avalanche danger. They had called the local Summit County avalanche hotline and knew the avalanche danger was rated High/Extreme. While they traveled toward Porcupine Peak they observed no outward snowpack signs of imminent avalanche danger such as shooting cracks or a collapsing snowpack.
Because of the avalanche danger the group chose to avoid open slopes and decided to stay in the trees. They normally go one at a time and spot each other on potential avalanche slopes. That was impossible in the treed area that they skied, so the group decided to ski one at a time to the creek bottom by going in 2-minute intervals. The first skier descended without incident and waited at the bottom. The second stopped somewhere uphill of the bottom. At about 1500 hours they both heard trees snapping and saw the avalanche coming at them. The lower skier turned and headed toward the creek. The second skier tried to ski to the side but noticed the avalanche bearing down on him. He bent over and flipped the heal pieces loose to get rid of his skis and "shinnied up a tree" as the avalanche rushed under him. The avalanche did not run much farther downhill from his tree perch.
The third and fourth skiers were caught, swept through, and badly battered in the trees. Voice contact was made with the two injured friends. The lower skier continued to the highway to summon help. The treed skier dropped down, found his skis and one pole. He put his skins on and rushed up the debris. One man suffered a broken leg but managed to scoot down to his severely injured friend who had been pushed against a tree.
The first rescuers including 3 paramedics reached the victims at about 1600 hours. The condition of the badly injured man steady worsened during the evacuation. He was transported to the Snake River Clinic at Keystone where doctors were unable to save him.
This avalanche was classified as HS-AS-2-G. The avalanche fractured 4-6 feet deep. The fracture line width was estimated at 200 to 300 feet, and the avalanche fell an estimated 600 vertical feet.
We will post more details as they become available. Logan/Atkins, 3/21/03