News Headlines     |     


Saturday March 9, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

There've been more deaths in avalanches in Colorado. There were 346 avalanches in the first week of March alone. The authorities warn it's still highly dangerous.


"Do not travel in the backcountry," the Colorado Avalanche Information Centre said when the risk was put at its highest level on the scale - 5 or extreme.

"Historic avalanches expected to valley floors."

Avalanches are "running bigger than the last 20 to 30 years" and in some cases bigger than the last 50 years.

It follows yet more heavy snowfall in a winter that simply keeps on snowing.

Eight people are now known to have died in the state this season.

On Saturday 9th March two people were clearing snow from a roof in the Crested Butte ski area when the snow avalanched.

Both were buried.

One died, the other survived.

The same day a massive avalanche, said to be more than a mile wide, came down at Aspen Highlands Ridge, taking out hundreds, possibly thousands, of trees and an unoccupied home in the valley.

It was at least 3,000 feet - that's almost a kilometre - long and rose several hundred feet up the other side of the valley.

No one was hurt in the slide.

Aspen Highlands Ridge avalancheAspen Highlands Ridge avalanche - photo Colorado Avalanche Information Center
















Highlands Ridge avalanche pathHighlands Ridge avalanche path - photo Colorado Avalanche Information Center
















On Monday 11th March, the avalanche risk level reduced slightly to either 4 (high) in some parts of the state, including Aspen, or 3 (considerable) in others.

"The message we want to convey remains clear and simple: the avalanche conditions in the Colorado backcountry are still dangerous for anybody traveling in avalanche terrain," said the Colorado Avalanche Information Center on Monday.

"No time more than now calls for focus and restraint.

"Natural avalanches are possible and human-triggered avalanches are likely today.

"These avalanches have the potential to be very large or historic."

Two skiers have died in Colorado in the last week.

One of them was known to PlanetSKI.

48-year-old Hans Berg was working for the snowcat company Powder Addiction, based at Jones Pass near the ski resort of Winter Park.

Our chief reporter Jane Peel skied with him and Powder Addiction at Jones Pass two years ago.

Hans was taking photographs and video footage for the company.

Powder Addiction snowcatHans Berg was working for Powder Addiction
















He was with a group in the backcountry at Jones Pass when he was buried in a massive slide just before 2pm on Thursday.

He was quickly recovered from the snow but died later in hospital of his injuries.

Jones Pass avalancheJones Pass avalanche - photo Colorado Avalanche Information Center
















Powder Addiction has come in for fierce criticism on social media for taking skiers into the backcountry with such a high avalanche risk.

The company says its group was skiing in accordance with standard operation procedures in a well known and frequently skied area.

It says the slide was set off by two non-guided skiers who skied onto a loaded slope far above the group.

Jones Pass, ColoradoJones Pass, Colorado















"The Powder Addiction family is distraught by Hans's passing," says a statement on its Facebook page.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Hans's family and friends during this heartbreaking time."

In Breckenridge an avalanche inbounds caught two snowboarders.

They managed to out run it and were not injured.

The inbound slide occurred at 12:39 p.m. on Friday an expert-rated trail off the Imperial Express chairlift.

The first seven days of March produced at least 346 avalanches the mountains of Colorado.

A total of 37 were classified as ‘destructive' and four were described as ‘historic' - this means they were capable of destroying substantial amounts of forest or buildings.

The first avalanche of the 2018-19 season was documented on October 12, 2018.

Nearly 2,000 have been recorded since.

This was the messager from the Colorado Avalanche Information Centre when the danger level was 'extreme' in many places in Colorado.

Extreme dangerExtreme danger



















Many roads were cut off.

A huge avalanche came down on the main I-70 as we reported earlier on PlanetSKI.


The road is one of the main east-west transportation routes in the western USA.

Since the avalanche many sections of the I-70 were closed at times in the following week, causing severe travel disruption.

The authorities have been setting off controlled avalanches across the state.


Ski authorities had to close some areas - even whole resorts.

Arapahoe Basin was completely shut on Thursday and Friday .

"It absolutely pains me to say this but, PLEASE stay away until we can get this situation resolved," said the chief operating officer of the resort, Alan Henceroth.


Breckenridge closed its upper-mountain lifts:

Copper Mountain had delayed openings.

In the latest storm in Colorado many ski areas reported impressive 24-hour snowfall totals:

  • Aspen Highlands - 56cm.
  • Ski Cooper - 48cm
  • Copper Mountain - 46cm
  • Loveland - 40cm
  • Keystone and Breckenridge - 40cm

In Utah there has also been heavy snow with the avalanche risk at Level 4 in places  in the Wasatch mountains near Salt Lake City - that means there is a 'high' risk of avalanche.

Mammoth Mountain and Squaw Valley in California have already announced they will be open in July thanks to the huge amounts of snow that have fallen this winter.

Meanwhile check out the latest reports from our senior news reporter, Katie Bamber, who has just been in Aspen in Colorado for a series of special reports:

Katie Bamber in AspenKatie Bamber in Aspen

















And once the slopes have been made safe and areas opened there will again be some superb skiing.

If you are thinking of heading out for a Spring break then our advice at PlanetSKI is simple - don't delay.

It's been an epic winter so far with historic levels of snow:

Here is the latest on conditions in the USA from our Weekly Snow Report just out:

"Snow conditions continue to impress across many western US resorts."

"In Colorado, Vail has seen a massive 120cm of new snow in the last week and now has a very healthy 236cm packed down on its upper slopes".

"Further north, Wyoming's Jackson Hole is also doing well, with around 25cm of new snow in the last couple of days and an upper base depth of just over 3m."

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news

Related Articles

THE SNOW IN PICTURES (Tuesday November 12, 2019)
PLANETSKI GOES GREEN (Monday September 23, 2019)

With thanks to our main sponsors...

Platinum partners

Bronze partners