“They didn’t do anything wrong as far as ducking a rope. They went to the end of a barrier and took such a hard traverse they got into the flats over there.” –Steamboat Ski Patrol Director John Kohnke
Hats off to the Steamboat Ski Patrollers involved in the rescue of a snowboarder who was caught in an avalanche and fully buried on Sunday. The Steamboat Pilot reports the human-triggered persistent hard slab avalanche occurred primarily between Chutes 1 and 2. The area is inbounds but was closed at the time.
Mountain dispatch was alerted at 12:58 p.m. and by 1:05 p.m. patrol were extricating the guest. By 1:06 or 1:07 p.m., the person was “fully extricated and conscious and breathing.” The victim was transported by ambulance to UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and is reportedly in good condition.
“It was an incredible response and an incredible result.” –Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp VP of Mountain Ops Dave Hunter
The snowboarder was part of a group of eight people who were in the closed area. Although the area was closed, they did not duck any ropes to access it. They traversed in above Big Meadow, which is open, and below the chutes. It is believed they triggered the avalanche from below. Several members of the group were caught in the slide but only one was completely buried. Another person was buried up to their waist.
“There is a reason why we are keeping terrain closed. The public needs to bear with us. Snow is a wild thing.” -Dave Hunter
Steamboat Radio did a great play by play of the events in a Facebook post including an interview with Steamboat Ski Patrol Director John Kohnke:
“An avalanche occurred in closed terrain today, near Chute One at Steamboat Resort. We have just spoken to Dave Hunter, the VP of Operations, and Ski Patrol Director John Kohnke. Here is a rough transcript of the conversation:
From Dave Hunter: At 12:58 p.m. today, mountain dispatch was contacted about an avalanche above Big Meadow and below Chute One. Reported a burial. Dispatched out of PHQ at top of mountain. Three top patrollers responded to the incident.
At 1:05, Steamboat Ski Patrol extricated the patient out of the burial and by 1:06 they were fully extricated and conscious and breathing.
Chutes are closed where the avalanche began. That terrain was clearly closed. The individuals traversed from the bottom of the ridge into an area at the bottom of the chutes and above Big Meadow and that’s how they gained access into that area. The avalanche started well above them in a closed area.
John Kohnke, Ski Patrol Director. “They didn’t do anything wrong as far as ducking a rope. They went to the end of a barrier and took such a hard traverse they got into the flats over there.”
Dave Hunter: They took a very hard traverse and they ended up putting themselves at the bottom of a closed area and the avalanche propagated from above them. They skied to the bottom of the closure. They took a very hard traverse to skiers’ right which put them slightly uphill which put them into an area at the bottom of the chutes. The area where the avalanche occurred is technically closed but the area below them is technically open.
No names are being released. A 21-year-old male that was buried. No charges will be filed.
Our patrol team did an outstanding job of responding to the incident quickly, swiftly, and appropriately.
The good story is that everyone is fine. We’d like to take this opportunity to educate all of our guests and our community on the current unstable snowpack in areas that are normally comfortable skiing and don’t feel that it’s a big deal to go into terrain that technically is not open, they need to take into consequence what the snowpack is currently.
63” of new snow in October, followed by unseasonably warm temperatures and some rain, and then now recently up to 36” of new snow with wind. That is a recipe for unstable snowpack.
Today is a clear result of that unstable snowpack. Our teams work extremely hard to open up as much terrain as fast as we can for our guests to enjoy although terrain that presents potential avalanche danger, we have to go in as experts and do our jobs in mitigating that avalanche danger as best we can. We can never eliminate them but we can mitigate them to the point that we are comfortable opening that terrain to the public.
And it’s very important that everyone understands the importance of allowing us to do our job prior to us opening up terrain to the public.
Patient was transported by ambulance to UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. Helicopter was dispatched but then not needed.
Hunter would like to remind everyone to always use the buddy system, whether in bounds or out of bounds, and use your mountain common sense.”