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AZred60 02-17-2010 03:54 PM

Skier Caught in AZ Avalanche
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.

killclimbz 02-17-2010 04:00 PM

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One lucky sob. We have a seen a lot of close calls this season. So were these guys packing full avy gear? Kind of sounds that way, but nothing is said of it. At least it was a happy ending.

AZred60 02-17-2010 04:27 PM

From what I hear, yeah they had full avy gear with them. There were skiing telemark, which is maybe the most active slide zone in the San Fran peaks. With the 7+ ft we got in less than a week from that huge storm, conditions have to be evaluated a lot different than in years past. And I think that is making some people over-confident. As far as I know, this is the only incident since the storm, which is almost surprising considering the magnitude of the slides we had during and shortly after the big dump.

linvillegorge 02-18-2010 01:55 AM

I know just enough about avalanche awareness to be dangerous and that's why I take no risks. One would think that the fact that there had been 7 feet of recent snowfall that people would be intelligent enough to have it cross their minds that maybe, just maybe it wasn't a good idea to be travelling in an area referred to as the Telemark Avalanche Path. Sometimes it doesn't take a lot of training, just a itty bit of common sense.

killclimbz 02-18-2010 08:40 AM

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Let's not forget spatial variability either. Just because a pit is great in one spot, doesn't mean it's the same even 10ft away. That is why you got to look at all sorts of signs and information while you are out there. One spot is not representative of an entire slope.

AZred60 02-18-2010 06:43 PM

Absolutely right. I dug a pit on the southside of the peaks just a day or two before this happened. We couldn't get a fail from our compression test, but we did see a sketchy looking layer of almost pure ice with practically no penetration. For us, this layer was only about 8 inches off the ground, maybe because we were on a southern-facing aspect. However for them, I wouldn't be surprised if that layer had something to do with the failure.

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