Diamond Peaks
December 14, 1999

1 backcountry skier caught, buried and killed

Accident Summary

A small avalanche buried and killed A 21-year-old CSU student Tuesday afternoon near Cameron Pass in the Medicine Bow Mountains of Northern Colorado. Cameron Pass is a popular backcountry ski/riding area along SH14 about 50 miles west of Fort Collins. The victim was with two snowboarding friends when the avalanche occurred at about 1330. The victim, on telemark skis, was "skinning up" toward the South summit of Diamond Peaks while his friends waited lower down on the peak. They did not see him get caught, but started to search after they saw (or heard) the avalanche. They were joined briefly by two other friends, who then left to get help. With no last seen area the remaining pair could only dig with their snowboards in randomly selected spots. After making sure help was on the way the other two returned to the accident site, but then left to guide additional rescuers back to the site.

Rescue

The Larimer County Sheriff's Department was notified of the accident about one hour later. While search and rescue team members responded several "forest service" (not sure if USFS or Colorado State Forest) employees searched some of the debris with probe poles. The search was postponed shortly after darkness due to poor visibility and additional wind loading.

The search resumed early Wednesday morning with four trained avalanche rescue dogs. The man's body was located about 10 minutes after the search started. He was buried very close to the surface; a hand and foot were within 6 inches the surface.

Avalanche Data

This avalanche was classified as SS-AS-2-O. It fractured 1.5 to 2 feet deep by about 200 feet across. The slide ran about 200 yards down the slope. The soft slab avalanche was triggered by the skier and the snow failed in the depth hoar layer near the ground.

Dale Atkins