On Wednesday January, 18th, a fatal avalanche accident occurred in the backcountry on Burnt Mountain near the Snowmass ski area. The avalanche occurred in a gully feature on a northeast aspect at 10,490 feet. The small slope that slid averaged approximately 45 degrees, and was close to 50 degrees near the crown. The avalanche was 14 feet wide, ran 30 vertical feet, and was 2 feet deep at the crown. A soft slab approximately 1 foot thick sat on top of a very reactive surface hoar layer. We believe the avalanche started with the soft slab failing on the surface hoar before stepping down into the underlying weak faceted snow.
There were 3 skiers in the group involved in the accident. Skier 1 entered the gully from the top and skied down the bottom of the gully and past the accident site without incident. Skier 2 entered further down down slope and triggered a small soft slab that deposited debris in the bottom of the gully, but was not caught in the debris. Skier 2 also skied further down the gully without incident. Skier 3 entered further down slope from Skier 2 and became stuck in avalanche debris from Skier 2's soft slab and weak faceted snow at the the bottom of the gully. While struggling to extricate himself, he triggered a soft slab which came down from above and buried him.
The avalanche was very small but the debris was funneled into the narrow gully, which allowed a small amount of snow to pile up deeply enough to bury the victim. Skiers 1 and 2 responded to the accident by ascending back up the gully to the burial location. They were able to extricate Skier 3, with the help of several snowboarders who came upon the scene responding to calls for help. Unfortunately, attempts to resuscitate Skier 3 were unsuccessful.
Article from the Aspen Daily News