CAIC: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

2013/02/07 - Colorado - Berthoud Pass-Current Creek-Postage Stamp

Published 2013/08/15 by Scott Toepfer - Forecaster, CAIC

Avalanche Details

  • Location: Berthoud Pass-Current Creek-Postage Stamp
  • State: Colorado
  • Date: 2013/02/07
  • Time: 2:45 PM
  • Summary Description: 2 skiers caught, 1 partially 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: 0
  • Injured: 0
  • Killed: 0


  • Type: HS
  • Trigger: AS - Skier
  • Trigger (subcode): u - An unintentional release
  • Size - Relative to Path: R2
  • Size - Destructive Force: D2
  • Sliding Surface: G - At Ground/Ice/Firm


  • Slope Aspect: --
  • Site Elevation: --
  • Slope Angle: --
  • Slope Characteristic: Planar Slope

Avalanche Comments

The avalanche was triggered after both skiers had crossed the path and were ascending along the south flank about mid track. Skier 1 was about 10 feet from the south flank when the slide started, Skier 2 a little lower in the path.

Weather Summary

At 5 am on Thursday February 7 skies were overcast. A storm was just moving out of the area. New snow was in the 2 to 5" range with low water contents. Skies cleared quickly after sunrise.
The nearby CAIC weather station (11,861') at Berthoud Pass had an overnight low of 3° F with a gradual warming trend during the day. It was 18° F at 14:00 hours, and 21° at 15:00 hours. Morning winds were light from the northeast, 4-5 mph. Winds shifted to southwest and showed only a slight increase to 8-9 mph, gusting into the teens during the afternoon.

Snowpack Summary

No snowpits were done by the group that day. Both Skier 1 and 2 remarked on how wet and sticky the snow was becoming at the time of the avalanche.

Events Leading to the Avalanche

Skier 1 and 2 arrived at Berthoud Pass around 09:30 Thursday morning, February 7 with a goal of skiing north along a ridge to Winter Park. Both skiers climbed to the top of the old Berthoud Pass ski area on the west side of Highway 40. They did one lap back to the top of the pass. They then ascended to Russel Peak and skied a line into Current Creek where they saw signs of avalanche activity around 2+ days old. The party skied down Current Creek to Highway 40 and then ascended an up-track around the 110's avalanche path to the north flank of Postage Stamp. At treeline on the north flank of the Postage Stamp Skier 1 and 2 talked about how to cross the path. They decided to take an ascending traverse to gain the rocky ridge on the south flank of the path. Skier 1 started the ascending traverse south. About halfway across Rider 1 started to break into old layers of snow and relayed this to Skier 2 who was now crossing about 75 feet behind Skier 1. Skier 1 started a slight descent to get off the slope faster. Skier 2 was able to catch Skier 1 at a small outcrop of rocks, just above several small sub alpine fir trees along the south flank of the path. The snowpack became shallower along this flank.The party discussed ending their tour and heading back to the highway, but decided there was not a good way out of their position except to continue up, and they still had the goal of skiing to Winter Park.
There was a ravine feature just south and downhill that both Skier 1 and Skier 2 wanted to avoid, so they started to climb up and to the south to gain the safety of the rocky ridge. Skier 1 began to climb and made one switchback heading south, staying close to the south flank. About 10 feet above the first switchback Skier 2 yelled out "It's sliding". Rider 2 said there was no other warning, no collapse or shooting cracks until the slab was running.

Accident Summary

Rider 1 was able to quickly ski off the slab and onto the south flank of the avalanche. Skier 2, still at the small island of rocks, was also caught in the slide but was unable to exit off the slab. Skier 2 grabbed a small tree but was quickly pulled off. Skier 2 was then swept a short distance into a clump of small trees. Skier 2 was partially buried, lying face up, body across the slope, with one arm and face clear of the debris.

As Skier 2 was swept downhill Skier 1 was skiing off the slab but kept looking back to keep a visual on Skier 2. When Skier 2 came to a stop they were able to communicate verbally and state they were ok.

Rescue Summary

Skier 1 quickly skied back into the debris and dug Skier 2 out. Skier 2 lost both poles in the slide, but sustained no injuries. Skier 1 and 2 were both able to ski out to Highway 40 and back to their car without further incident. Total elapsed time from the slide until Rider 2 was out of the debris was estimated at 5 to 10 minutes.


Rider 2 had cell phone service, their phone rang while Rider 1 was digging. They did not call 911.