CAIC: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

2012/02/13 - Colorado - Mushroom Bowl

Published 2012/02/18 by Scott Toepfer - Forecaster, CAIC


Avalanche Details

  • Location: Mushroom Bowl
  • State: Colorado
  • Date: 2012/02/13
  • Time: 11:30 AM (Estimated)
  • Summary Description: 1 skier caught, partially buried critical, and injured
  • Primary Activity: Sidecountry Rider
  • Primary Travel Mode: Ski

Number

  • Caught: 0
  • Fully Buried: 1
  • Injured: 1
  • Killed: 0

Avalanche

  • Type: --
  • Trigger: --
  • Trigger (subcode): --
  • Size - Relative to Path: --
  • Size - Destructive Force: --
  • Sliding Surface: --

Site

  • Slope Aspect: N
  • Site Elevation: 11450 ft
  • Slope Angle: 35 °
  • Slope Characteristic: Planar Slope

Accident Summary

A group of three skiers entered Mushroom Bowl around 11 AM on February 13th. The three skiers were along a north aspect cliff band (About 11,400 feet) with Skier 1 furthest west along the cliffs. Skier 1, 2 and 3 were in voice communication but could not see each other. Skier 2 and 3 were aware that Skier 1 would go off the cliff first. At about 11:30 Skier 1 came almost to a stop before jumping off an approximately 30 foot high cliff. When Skier 1 hit the slope a fracture propagated across the slope, about 100 feet wide, directly under Skier 1's feet. Skier 1 tried to cut left to get off the slab but the fracture continued to propagate left and Skier 1 was swept off his feet. Skier 1 tried to grab a small tree but was pulled off by the moving debris. Soon after this Skier 1 was swept through some smaller trees. Skier 1 hit a few of these trees with his left side and broke some ribs. Skier 1 continued to fight to keep his skis downhill and soon came to rest near the toe of the debris, on his left side, facing downhill. At this time Skier 1 was not buried too deeply, they could see light, but more debris quickly buried him about 1 to 1.5 feet deep at the head. Skier 1 was able to move one hand and could build a small air pocket. Skier 1 said he quickly knew he had to relax and slow his breathing down (it was very painful to breath with the broken ribs). He knew Skier 2 and Skier 3 would be down soon to get to him so he relaxed as best he could. A part of one ski was visible above the avalanche debris and it was still attached to Skier 1. Skier 2 & Skier 3 did not see the avalanche. But they heard it "We heard what sounded like a freight train". Shouts for Skier 1 were not returned.
Skier's 2 & 3 were able to negotiate a route off the cliff. They were careful not to trigger a second slide so this took maybe a couple of minutes.
Skier 2 & Skier 3 started a beacon and visual search down the avalanche path. About 5 to maybe ten minutes after the avalanche Skier 2 and 3 saw Skier 1's ski at the same time they got a beacon signal. In all Skier 1 felt he was buried 10 to maybe 15 minutes before he was fully excavated.
Skier 1 (with help from Skier 2 & 3) was able to self evacuate approximately 2 to 3 miles to Gold Peak where he met a friend who drove him to the nearby hospital.
The slide was rated a SSASR2D2O. The slab dimensions were 30" deep at the crown by an estimated 100 feet wide by 300 feet vertical. Skier 1 was carried down the entire slope and was partially buried critical just up hill from the toe of the debris pile.

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Snowpits

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Figure 6: Fracture line profile done two days after the avalanche.