CAIC: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

2018/12/18 - Colorado - West Fork of Clear Creek, north of Jones Pass

Published 2018/12/19 by Mike Cooperstein - Forecaster, CAIC

Avalanche Details

  • Location: West Fork of Clear Creek, north of Jones Pass
  • State: Colorado
  • Date: 2018/12/18
  • Time: 12:00 AM (Estimated)
  • Summary Description: 1 backcountry skier caught, partially buried, and injured
  • Primary Activity: Backcountry Tourer
  • Primary Travel Mode: Ski


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


  • Type: HS
  • 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: 12665 ft
  • Slope Angle: --
  • Slope Characteristic: Gully/Couloir

Accident Summary

A backcountry tourer was caught, carried, buried to his neck, and injured in an avalanche north of Jones Pass on a southeast-facing slope near the ridgeline. Two skiers skinned to the ridge in Jones Pass. Skier 1 descended part of the slope and waited behind a rock outcropping to watch his partner. Skier 2 made a few turns and triggered an avalanche that released below him. The avalanche washed over the outcrop and knocked Skier 1 off his feet. The avalanche carried him down the slope before he came to rest near the top of the debris field. He was buried to his neck, but his head was still above the snow. Skier 2 skied down and dug him out. Skier 1 was injured and could not descend under his own power. The Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office and Alpine Rescue Team were alerted around 11:50 AM and organized a response. Flight for Life flew Skier 1 off the mountain and transported him to a hospital.

The avalanche was a hard slab that broke into the old snow, was small relative to the path, about 200 feet wide, 2 to 8 feet deep, and ran over 400 vertical feet (HS-ASr-R2-D2-O). The debris field was approximately 150 feet wide by 200 feet long and up to 10 feet deep in places. The nature of the avalanche and how it release indicate this event would best be described as a Persistent Slab avalanche. 

Thanks Alpine Rescue Team for the detailed information. We will post more information when it becomes available.