Major storm yields area’s first avalanche rescue
Ryan Summerlin November 17, 2010
Grand County Search and Rescue performed its first avalanche rescue of the season during mid-morning of the region’s Nov. 16 blizzard that brought several inches of snow and gusty winds, causing the closure of major roads throughout the northern and central mountains.
A 24-year-old male was caught in a self-triggered avalanche that carried him over a cliff band, according to Greg Foley of Grand County Search and Rescue. Another skier aided the injured snowboarder and called 911, Foley said.
“Neither the man nor his partner had any avalanche safety gear,” he said.
Grand County Search and Rescue volunteers responded to the site in blizzard conditions and transported the man, who was complaining of lower back pain, to a waiting ambulance.
Rescuers urge backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers to carry an avalanche shovel, probe and beacon.
“The best chance of rescue in the case of an avalanche accident is from your companions,” Foley said.
Tuesday’s storm closed major passes and highways throughout the region and caused cancellations of East Grand Schools activities.
The storm, which created zero visibility on roadways, “came in very quickly, and we started shutting roads down,” said Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson Bob Wilson. “The storm came in, did it’s damage, and then left.”
Berthoud Pass closed at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, and Wilson said CDOT was well aware of Winter Park Resort’s scheduled opening the next day. For this reason, CDOT positioned extra loaders on Berthoud to help prevent a delayed road opening during early-morning avalanche control on the eastern side of the pass.
“We didn’t want to negatively impact the economy of Grand County,” Wilson said. Berthoud reopened at 7:45 a.m. on Nov. 17. CDOT had also closed I-70 from Floyd Hill to Silverthorne at 3:41 p.m. on Wednesday.
U.S. Highway 40 was also closed from Kremmling to Steamboat for 5 hours on Tuesday evening into the night.
Berthoud Pass at the summit is reported to have gained 28 inches of snow accumulation, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
From Tuesday into Wednesday, Rabbit Ears Pass accumulated about 6 inches with a total snow depth of about 14 inches west of Kremmmling; Fraser and Tabernash accumulated an estimated 3 inches with a total snow depth of 5.5 inches; and Granby got 2 inches with a total snow depth of 6.5 inches, according to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.
Winter Park Resort is reporting a base of 34 inches, with 6 inches having fallen from Tuesday into Wednesday.