Detailed Accident Report

Back to accidents page

Date: 2001-04-03
Submitted By: Knox Williams, CAIC
Place: Tenmile Range (West side), CO
State: CO
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught, buried, and killed

Avalanche Accident Report (Knox Williams, CAIC)

Investigated by Nick Logan, Scott Toepfer, and Lee Metzger of CAIC, and

Summit County Sheriff Office and USFS Safety Officer

Date & Time: April 3, 2001, at approximately 9 am


West side of 10 Mile Range along Highway 91 and Tenmile Creek in Summit

County, approximately 2.5 miles south of the "SKY" Chutes (just east of the

Copper Mounatin Exit) and 2.5 miles NE of Mayflower Gulch in a narrow unnamed

drainage off the NW side of Crystal Peak. [We will update this map late on

4/5/01.] The accident is east of the Copper Mountain Ski Area.

Elevation: 10,900 feet, below timberline

Aspect: North

Slope Angle: 40 degrees

Avalanche Data

The avalanche was classified as SSAV20 (soft slab, artificial-vehicle

trigger, small size, running on old snow layer). Fracture was 1-1/2 ft deep,

80 ft wide, widening to 180 feet at the bottom. Vertical fall was 100 ft.

Investigators found the snowpack to be very weak and caused several collapse

failures and saw evidence of other collapse failures the last few days plus

several other small avalanches.

Total snow depth at the crown was 90 cm. This consisted of about 50 cm of

faceted snow with a grain size of 3 6mm and about 40 cm of soft slab on top

(4 finger hardness). Stability tests caused easy column collapse failures.

Contributory weather factors

About 36" of snow fell from March 25-31, and strong winds caused blowing snow

from March 28 to April 1. Blowing snow was much heavier at elevations above

timberline and above the avalanche site. From March 29 to April 1, 80

avalanches were reported from around Summit County, with several being

reported on the west side of the 10 Mile Range.

Accident and Rescue Summary

The victim--a 22-year-old male--was a guide for a local snowmobile company.

At 0830 he rode alone up a gully, apparently trying to establish a trail to

the bowl on the west side of Crystal Peak. Evidence showed that he probably

got stuck near the bottom of the gully about a mile from the highway. He may

have been trying to dig his machine out when the avalanche released.

Several hours later a group of snowmobilers went to look for him and followed

his trail to the avalanche. They found a jacket on the snow and saw part of

the snowmobile sticking from the avalanche debris. They probed uphill from

the machine and located the victim who was 4-5 feet under. He had been buried

about 4 hours and was not alive when uncovered.

This was the fourth avalanche death in Colorado this winter. There have been

28 deaths in the US this winter.

Willams 4/3/01

Here is also the newspaper story from the Summit County Daily News:

Snowmobiler dies in avalanche

By Jane Reuter

SUMMIT COUNTY ? A 22-year-old snowmobile tour guide died Tuesday in this

winter?s first Summit County avalanche fatality.

Chad Jones, a native of Australia who has lived in the area for three years,

was riding on National Forest land east of Copper Mountain on the back side

of Peaks 9 and 10 when he apparently triggered the slide that killed him.

Jones had worked the past three seasons as a snowmobile tour guide for Timber

Ridge Snowmobile Tours, but he was not leading a tour or on Timber Ridge

property when the accident occurred.

"He was free riding, and we allow our guys to do that, but he was exploring

territory we don?t dive into," said Gregor Vaule, a manager at Timber Ridge

Snowmobile Tours who describes Jones as "one helluva dude."

"He was riding in a fairly narrow drainage on an unmarked trail and he

apparently collapsed some snow at the bottom," said Summit County Sheriff?s

technician Joel Cochran. "He wasn?t doing anything crazy besides traveling


Jones reportedly triggered the slide at about 10 a.m.

"It looked the first attempt on the hill," said Search and Rescue coordinator

Joe Ben Slivka said. "It wasn?t a long slide, less than 75 yards and about 10

feet deep. He was right at the toe."

Jones was reported missing at about noon, Slivka said.

Searchers spotted his jacket, which was at the edge of the debris. It

appeared Jones had taken it off and left it there before he made his fatal

attempt. Slivka said Timber Ridge employees had already found Jones by the

time they got to the scene.

Summit County Coroner Richard Eaton said Jones died "very quickly."

"It was a typical avalanche death, which is usually caused by suffocation,"

he said.

An autopsy will be conducted, Eaton said, most likely sometime today.

Rescuers said the death saddens them because it could have been prevented.

"He wasn?t wearing a beacon, and he was riding by himself," Slivka said. "If

someone had been riding with him, it?s possible they would have seen it

happen and been able to rescue him," said Tom Healy, law enforcement officer

for the Forest Service.

Summit County?s rapid deployment team, a group of rescuers who are called out

only in the most dire of circumstances, was summoned for Tuesday?s rescue,

but some of them were called off before they got to the scene. Flight For

Life pilot Rod Balak, with Copper Mountain rescue dog Hasty on board the

helicopter, said he was told the helicopter would not be needed and was

turned back.

Timber Ridge Tours will be closed for the next two days in Jones? memory.

~~~~~EARLY REPORT~~~~~

Tenmile Range (West side), CO

April 3, 2001

1 snowmobiler buried and killed

A snowmobile guide--travelling solo--was buried and killed in an avalanche on Tuesday on the West side of

the Tenmile Range. The accident occurred in a drainage off the NW side of Crystal Peak.

The 22-year-old victim left early in the morning to snowmobile up an un-named drainage in the backcountry to

the East of the Copper Mountain Ski Area. The drainage is two valleys to the North of the popular Mayflower

Gulch area. When he failed to return his fellow guides set out and followed his tracks.

The snowmobile tracks ascended up the narrow valley and ended in an avalanche. They found his jacket on the

debris surface and then found part of the snowmobile sticking out of the snow. The men were spot probing

around the machine when they found their buried friend. He was buried about 6 feet deep and for an estimated

time of 4 hours.

Nick, Scott and Lee will be visiting the accident site on 4/4 and will post additional information on 4/5.

This is Colorado's 4th fatality of the season and the 29th in the United States.