On February 23 at about 15:00 hours, a backcountry rider was caught, carried, and killed in an avalanche south of Aspen, near Richmond Hill. The accident was outside of the Aspen Mountain Ski Area in an area locally known as Ophir Gulch. The avalanche released on a slope that is below treeline and generally faces west. The part of the start zone where the slide was triggered faces west-northwest.
It appears the slide broke above the skier shortly after he entered the slope from the skier's left side. The slide was 20 feet wide at the highest point of the crown face, but widened to about 60 feet after traveling a short distance. The average height of the crown face was 12 inches and the maximum height was 20 inches. The slab was comprised of snow from the two most recent storms. The avalanche released on the old faceted snow that was on the surface prior to February 16. The vertical distance between the highest point of the crown face and the burial point was 630 vertical feet; debris ran another 20 vertical feet or so beyond the burial point. The slope angle in the start zone ranged from 38-40 degrees. The slope angle in the track was between 30 and 35 degrees. Though the slide was relatively small, it had disproportionately severe consequences because of the steepness of the track and the number of trees in the path.
CAIC staff conducted an onsite investigation on February 24 and will post further details as soon as possible.