Creek County, Colorado – On April 8, 2024, an avalanche forecaster from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) unintentionally triggered a hard slab avalanche on Mount Bethel while performing routine fieldwork. The avalanche, which initiated at an elevation of 11,840 feet on a wind-drifted, east-northeast-facing slope, was small relative to the path but substantial enough to bury and injure a person. The avalanche descended approximately 200 feet down a gully into a dense stand of trees, partially burying the forecaster.


The forecaster, while conducting assessments on snow stability, had misjudged the risk associated with the snowpack’s condition, which included a thin layer of rounded faceted snow grains beneath a hard slab. The CAIC had rated the avalanche danger as moderate (Level 2 of 5) near and above treeline on the day of the accident, emphasizing the potential for Wind Slab and Persistent Slab avalanches. Despite the forecaster’s extensive training and adherence to established safety protocols, the avalanche occurrence underscored the inherent uncertainties and dangers present in avalanche terrain.


A swift and coordinated rescue effort ensued, involving CAIC personnel, Alpine Rescue Team, Flight for Life, and Clear Creek County EMS. This incident vividly illustrates how even experienced professionals can face significant hazards in avalanche terrain.

You can read the full report here

“On April 8, a CAIC forecaster who was at work was caught and partially buried in an avalanche on Mount Bethel. It took some time for him to access his communication devices because he was partially buried and pinned against several trees. He sent an SOS call out just as CAIC staff were initiating a rescue response when he was overdue. CAIC staff and search and rescue evacuated him from the field. You can read the full details about this incident in the final report via link in our bio. We do our best to describe avalanche involvements to help all of us better understand and learn from them. We hope you can learn something from this event. We always strive to learn from accidents and near misses, and that includes our own. Although we take safety very seriously, we do have workplace accidents. This is the most serious workplace accident we’ve had since 2014 when a forecaster was injured by an explosive detonation. We are grateful that our colleague survived this recent accident without life-threatening injuries. The accident reinforces the importance of a robust field safety plan and our commitment to continually reviewing and refining our procedures. The outcome of this accident could have been much worse. We’d like to thank Alpine Rescue Team, Flight for Life, and Clear Creek County for the help and care they provided our colleague.”

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