Backcountry skier dies in avalanche in Maroon Bowl outside of Aspen
ASPEN — A member of the Mountain Rescue Aspen team died in an avalanche Sunday near the Maroon Bowl, which is near but outside the Aspen Highlands ski resort boundary, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Sunday night.
“It appears that the skier caught in the slide hit a tree. Unfortunately, despite resuscitation efforts, the skier caught in the slide did not survive,” the release said.
A second skier survived and was able to ski out.
The dead skier’s identity likely will be released Monday after the family is notified, Pitkin County patrol director Grant Jahnke said Sunday night.
Recovery efforts will continue as soon as Monday if weather and safety conditions allow, the Sheriff’s Office said. An avalanche warning was issued Sunday morning for the mountains around Aspen and northern and central Colorado after a spring storm that started Saturday night.
A call came in at 2:28 p.m. to the Pitkin County dispatch center from the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol, which witnessed the avalanche, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The patrol reported seeing two skiers caught in a slide in Maroon Bowl, which is past the Highland Bowl summit. Access to Highland Bowl was closed all day Sunday on the resort’s final day of the season because of safety concerns.
The preliminary report posted late Sunday by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the skiers “exited Aspen Highlands Ski Resort through a backcountry access gate. They were using climbing skins to ascend through an area known as Maroon Bowl. Both skiers were caught in an avalanche. One was killed.”
According to the Sheriff’s Office, ski patrol members “were able to confirm that there was movement at the tail end of the slide. After talking to the reporting party, it was learned that the skiers were skinning uphill on skis in the Maroon Bowl when the avalanche broke loose. Both skiers were caught in the avalanche and ‘raked through the trees,’ according to the reporting party.”
The second skier was able to communicate with ski patrol by cell phone and was able to climb back uphill and reach the skier who had been caught in the avalanche, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Mountain Rescue Aspen was notified of the incident and began to organize a search-and-rescue effort. It was later discovered that the dead skier was a member of MRA, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The terrain and conditions were deemed too unsafe to attempt a recovery effort Sunday, according to searchers. The second skier was able to slowly ski out downhill after sustaining several non-life threatening injuries.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center on Sunday morning issued an avalanche warning for much of the Colorado high country after a spring storm dropped up to two feet of wet, heavy snow in some areas. The warning listed avalanche danger as level 4 (on a scale of 5) and warned of “unusually destructive” slides based on the snow.
This is a developing story that will be updated.
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