Skier Caught in Avalanche on San Francisco Peaks Survives
Flagstaff, AZ – A 36 year old male from Flagstaff who was skiing on the north side of Fremont Peak in an area known as the Telemark Avalanche Path triggered an avalanche. He was trapped in the avalanche and was drug more than a quarter mile and dropped approximately 900 feet in elevation.
On Friday, February 05, 2010 at about 1:26 p.m. Emergency Communications Specialists of the Northern Arizona Regional 911 Reception Center received a call from an individual who reported to be in a group three skiers in the area of the Telemark Avalanche Path. According to the reporting party one of the skiers was caught in an avalanche and was buried under the snow.
The call was transferred to the Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Coordinator who immediately initiated a rapid response. He called the Arizona Snowbowl and requested that a Stage 1 Avalanche Rescue Team be mobilized. He also contacted the Arizona Department of Public Safety Northern Air Rescue Unit and requested that a helicopter crew do a reconnaissance flight with a Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue member on board to determine if it was possible to insert rescue personnel. Search and Rescue personnel prepared to respond from Lockett Meadow Road to the Inner Basin to assist with the rescue.
Subsequent calls from the reporting party revealed that the avalanche victim was able to self extricate and all three members of the party were located near Doyle Springs. Eventually a member of the Arizona Ski Patrol was able to make telephone contact with the victim. The victim remained at Doyle Springs and was picked up by the Arizona Department of Public Safety Helicopter and flown to the Arizona Snowbowl where he was evaluated and treated. The other two skiers remained with the victim until he was transported and then skied out to North Highway 89. The victim refused to be transported to the Flagstaff Medical Center.
Investigation revealed that the three skiers dug a hasty snow study pit and intended to ski one at a time. The victim was the first one to ski the line. The other two skiers saw the avalanche as it began and attempted to shout warnings to the victim but were too late. It is believed the avalanche fractured at about 11,500 feet and the toe of the run out was at 10,650 feet. The Telemark Avalanche Path is located approximately 1 ½ miles from the top of the Agassiz Chair Lift in remote rugged terrain. Telemark is one of the most active avalanche paths on the San Francisco Peaks.
AZ almost had its first avy fatality since the eighties. Thankfully, this one ended as well as it could have.