CAIC: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

2013/02/03 - Colorado - Russell Peak, near Berthoud Pass

Published 2013/02/18 by Spencer Logan - Forecaster, CAIC

Avalanche Details

  • Location: Russell Peak, near Berthoud Pass
  • State: Colorado
  • Date: 2013/02/03
  • Time: 3:00 PM (Estimated)
  • Summary Description: 2 backcountry skiers caught, 1 partially buried, 1 fully buried
  • Primary Activity: Backcountry Tourer
  • Primary Travel Mode: Ski
  • Location Setting: Backcountry


  • Caught: 2
  • Partially Buried, Non-Critical: 1
  • Partially Buried, Critical: 0
  • Fully Buried: 1
  • Injured: 0
  • Killed: 0


  • Type: SS
  • Trigger: AS - Skier
  • Trigger (subcode): r - A remote avalanche released by the indicated trigger
  • Size - Relative to Path: R2
  • Size - Destructive Force: D2
  • Sliding Surface: O - Within Old Snow


  • Slope Aspect: SE
  • Site Elevation: 12000 ft
  • Slope Angle: 38 °
  • Slope Characteristic: Planar Slope

Avalanche Comments

The soft-slab avalanche was remotely triggered from below by a ski tourer, small relative to the path, but large enough to bury a person, and in old snow near the ground (SS-ASr-R2D2-O). The crown was in cross-loaded terrain below a cliff band, depths ranged from 1 to 4 feet, and width was about 150 feet. The avalanche ran about 200 vertical feet. Two similar sized avalanches had been triggered on the face the day prior, just east of this incident.

Events Leading to the Avalanche

As part of a group taking an introduction to avalanches class, a party of 8 students and instructors left the Pumphouse trailhead. Their goal was to inspect two rider-triggered avalanches from the day prior on the southeast face of Russell Peak. The group left the trees and climbed onto a moraine at the base of the southeast face of Russell Peak. The moraine was largely covered in avalanche debris from the earlier avalanches. The group traveled southwest along the moraine, past the avalanche debris. They reached a gully cutting through the moraine and decided to spread out as they crossed. One of the lead skiers felt a whumpf. There was a short delay, approximately 20 seconds, between the whumpf and the avalanche initiating.

Accident Summary

When the avalanche released several group members headed for shelter behind a large boulder. Party members who reached shelter were able to establish voice communication with the other group within seconds after the avalanche stopped.

Skier 1 fell into a treewell trying to reach the rock, and was over-run by the avalanche. Skier 1 was fully buried about 1 foot deep, but able to punch through the snow to the surface and quickly clear their airway. Skier 1 then dug out of the debris with assistance from the rest of the group.

Skier 2 was caught, pushed about 15 feet into a small tree, and partially buried face-down about 1 foot deep. The tree provided an air pocket for Skier 2, and they were able to communicate with the group. A ski tip and portion of Skier 2's backpack was visible on the debris surface. The rest of the party helped extract Skier 2. Both Skiers 1 and 2 returned to the trailhead under their own power.