Soda Mountain (Buffalo Pass), Park Range
January 3, 2005

1 backcountry skier buried and killed

Around lunchtime Monday the Routt County Sheriffs Office was notified a backcountry skier had been buried on Soda Mountain near Buffalo Pass. Companions quickly found their friend after 8-10 minutes but could not revive the 26-year-old skier. The group had used snowmobiles to access the backcountry.

The avalanche occurred on the southeast side of Soda Mountain. Soda Mountain is about 7.5 miles NE of the town of Steamboat Springs and about 7.5 miles N of the ski area. Locals call this path the Flume of Doom.


Map shows Steamboat Springs to Buffalo Pass area. Soda Mountain (red flag) is about 2 miles WNW of Buffalo Pass.


Map shows the general location of the fatal avalanche (blue circle) on Jan 3, 2005.

The hard slab avalanche released by the skier (or skiers) fractured about 2 feet deep on a south-southeast aspect at 10,600 feet. The avalanche fell 200 vertical feet. Because of some mechanical problems getting in to and out of the site our observer Art Judson had limited time and was not able to do a fracture line profile. The starting zone angle is estimated to be about 38 degrees and even steeper in the rocks. I estimate the weak layer was faceted sugar-like snow over and around the rocks.

Looking up

Looking up the "Flume of Doom" avalanche path. The fracture line is visible near the top of the rocks to the looker's left. A second but very small avalanche is barely visible near the top of the chute. This avalanche might have been triggered by rescuers. Photograph by Jon Halverson, Routt National Forest

CAIC Danger Rating

The backcountry avalanche danger for the Steamboat zone was LOW below 8,000 feet, and MODERATE above 8,000 feet.