Colorado recovering from deadliest avalanche in 50 years



Scott Toepfer, a member of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, takes depth measurements every 50 feet at the crown of the avalanche near Loveland Pass on Sunday. Photo: Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Colorado saw its deadliest avalanche in 50 years on Saturday, April 20th, 2013. Five of the victims have recently been identified, members of our snowboard community who had gathered for an event promoting backcountry safety and awareness-- The Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Gathering. Our thoughts are with the friends and families of those who passed and all involved.


From TransWorld Business:

CAIC's preliminary report said the slide was approximately 500 feet wide and four feet deep, and was most likely triggered by the riders who were touring on Loveland Pass a popular backcountry zone located about 55 miles west of Denver and just south of Loveland Ski Area, in the Sheep's Creek area, just above Loveland Valley.

According to Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger, the victims of the slide included Timlin, 32; Christopher Peters, 32, of Lakewood; Ryan Novack, 33, of Boulder; Ian Lanphere, 36, of Crested Butte; and Rick Gaukel, 33, of Estes Park. Another snowboarder, Jerome Boulay, sales manager for Colorado-based Venture Snowboards was buried and survived. According to Never Summer Sales Manager Mike Gagliardi, who was not at the event but was close to many there, Boulay was buried for an extended period with just his head and arm above snow.”

From the Denver Post:

“The five are: Christopher Peters, 32, from Lakewood; Joseph Timlin, 32, from Gypsum; Ryan Novack, 33, from Boulder; Ian Lamphere, 36, from Crested Butte and Rick Gaukel, 33, from Estes Park.

Saturday’s avalanche struck about 1 p.m. on the north-northeast aspect of the Sheep Creek drainage of Loveland Pass along U.S. 6, the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office said.

Saturday’s fatal slide measured about 200 meters (about 219 yards) wide and 350 meters (about 383 yards) long. The fracture line was about 8 feet deep, officials said.

The recent deluge of heavy, wet snow and high winds in the high country has spiked avalanche danger in the Central Rockies at a time when snowpacks are typically stabilizing and getting safer for backcountry travel.

‘I feel really bad for these guys. I think they were trying to do a lot of things right. These weren’t guys who were reckless and didn’t care. They all had gear, and I think they cared about making good decisions,’ said Tim Brown, a Summit County avalanche forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

‘That is an important message right now. You can do a lot of things right but still be caught in a dangerous situation.’

The avalanche triggered while all six riders were nearing the bottom of the bowl and the beginning of the narrow ravine only a couple hundred yards above the top of the Loveland Valley chairlift.”


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