December 13th, 2016

Two Sledders Buried in Colorado Avalanche

A group of sledders survived an avalanche in the Buffalo Pass area near Steamboat, Colorado on Sunday, December 11, 2016.

Three riders in a group of eight were involved in the avalanche when an entire slope released as the group crossed it. The remaining riders were spaced out and were not affected. Of the three, two sledders were buried an estimated 120cm deep while the third rider remained on top of the slide.

The search for the victims took between 10 and 14 minutes, and both buried victims were found breathing, pinned against trees. One was trapped beneath his snowmobile. Both riders had avalanche airbags, although one rider had been unable to reach his handle to deploy it in time.

The team of rescuers had avalanche education, and performed an effective rescue of the victims. The situation could have undoubtedly been worse had the group not made the wise decision to wait and spread out across the questionable slope.

The avalanche was described as taking place on a steep, south-facing slope. There was an estimated 60cm of fresh, heavy snow load, which resulted in a soft slab ranging from 24-120cm deep. There was little to no base, and many shallow spots as can been seen in the image below.


Photo via Colorado Avalanche Information Center avalanche report

Photo via CAIC report


In hindsight, the party member who reported the avalanche admits that a poor choice of trails was made given the conditions at the time. The trail is reported as being narrow, and following along the steep slope.


The report can be found on the CAIC website here.


Thanks to the group for reporting the incident, and—more importantly—being educated, prepared and capable of a quick response. Good job.


— MS