Colorado Snowmobilers Narrowly Survive Being Caught in an Avalanche

Snowmobile Triggered Avalanches

How and where we impact known buried weak layers can mean the difference between a no-feedback, “routine” run and triggering a dangerous avalanche on that same piece of terrain. This video of an avalanche incident near Leadville in Birdseye Gulch from February 11th illustrates that point. The skiers were fortunate to not trigger an avalanche. Moments later the snowmobiler, a larger trigger, was able to collapse the weak layer and trigger an avalanche. The second rider was buried with their head above the surface and not involved in the subsequent sympathetic avalanches. Since the time of the avalanches in this video it has become harder to trigger a deep avalanche. However, the possibility still exists as evidenced by a remote skier-triggered avalanche in the Front Range two days ago and another snowmobile triggered avalanche in the Vail Pass area yesterday. https://tinyurl.com/Vail-Pass-Feb-21 The likelihood of triggering a large and potentially deadly avalanche may increase as another storm moves in late on Saturday. Conservative terrain choices with attention to connected terrain and safe travel practices can help us manage the high degree of uncertainty with the complicated snowpack structure currently present in many backcountry zones. https://avalanche.state.co.us/

Posted by Colorado Avalanche Information Center - CAIC on Saturday, February 22, 2020

On Saturday, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) posted a video to its Facebook page that shows two snowmobilers in Colorado on February getting very lucky on a casual ride near Leadville in Birdseye Gulch. Needless to say, this situation could have certainly ended much worse than it did.

As you watch the footage, the first snowmobiler makes their way up the hill, when the unstable snowpack gets triggered, sending a massive plume of snow barreling down on the second snowmobiler not far behind.

You can see that there are tracks already on the terrain that the snowmobiles are attempting to climb. According to the CAIC, there had been skiers in the same area just moments before the avalanche was triggered. Apparently, their prescence on the terrain was not impactful enough to trigger the slide.

“The skiers were fortunate to not trigger an avalanche,” the CAIC wrote. “Moments later the snowmobiler, a larger trigger, was able to collapse the weak layer and trigger an avalanche.”

Thankfully, the snowmobiler who was caught by the avalanche was able to keep from getting completely submerged by the snow as they finished tumbling down the hill.

“It’s really quite terrifying,” CAIC Director Ethan Greene told KDVR. “Fortunately, the fellow that was caught in the avalanche ends up with his head above the snow.”

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center warns that potentially catastrophic avalanches are likely to persist in this particular area.

“Conservative terrain choices with attention to connected terrain and safe travel practices can help us manage the high degree of uncertainty with the complicated snowpack structure currently present in many backcountry zones,” the CAIC says.

As always, the CAIC urges anybody venturing out into avalanche terrain to check the avalanche forecast before heading out.

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!