Rolling spring snow storms through the Colorado high country have left unstable back country conditions resulting in tragedy for a member of the Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA) team. The following is the official statement from Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and MRA Aspen President Justin Hood.
After that story, readers can find specific data from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) about snow conditions a bit closer to home in the Sawatch Zone, which includes Lake County.
Pitkin County, Colorado – Monday, April 9, 2018
As the investigation continues into the tragic accident that took the life of a Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA) member, both agencies have begun the process to determine how to safely and efficiently affect the recovery. It is with great sadness that we identify 57-year-old John Galvin, a Roaring Fork Valley resident and 30-year veteran of MRA as the individual killed in the avalanche in the Maroon Bowl on Sunday, April 8, 2018. This same avalanche injured Galvin’s skiing partner, who was able to call for assistance and successfully self-rescued. Avalanche conditions on Sunday, April 8, 2018, prevented recovery crews from entering the avalanche zone in the Maroon Bowl.
Moving forward, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office has requested the assistance of professional snow safety personnel from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) to participate in the recovery mission. CAIC personnel will work with Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol this week to provide snow safety assessments which will be used to determine the best time and date to recover Galvin’s body. Due to current conditions there will be no attempts to recover Galvin’s body Monday, April 9, 2018.
“John was a dedicated and professional public safety volunteer, who unselfishly gave his time to our community over 30 years.” – Joe DiSalvo, Pitkin County Sheriff
As one can imagine, the members of both agencies, but specifically the all-volunteer rescuers from Mountain Rescue Aspen are particularly impacted by this loss. We wish to remind the public to heed the warnings of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center or professional snow safety resources in your state.
“John helped save lives of hundreds of visitors and locals who were in need while injured or stranded in our mountains. John will be missed by all on our team and in our community.” – Justin Hood, MRA President.
Avalanche Conditions Dangerous in Local Zone
As backcountry snow conditions change and shift with each spring storm, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center is issuing warnings to avoid places where you can trigger an avalanche in the Sawatch zone, which includes Lake County.
Yesterday, April 9 CAIC reported the following: With another 2 to 4 inches of new snow overnight, the three-day weekend storm total peaks around two feet in parts of the Sawatch Zone. This heavy snow load set off numerous large and dangerous avalanches yesterday and is a good indication of the hazards that still exist. On slopes steeper than 30 degrees at higher elevations you can trigger avalanches in the new or drifted snow that will break multiple feet deep and be large enough to bury you. Watch for shooting cracks off of your skis or sled as a warning sign of unstable snow. There is also a continued threat of avalanches breaking into deeper weak layers capable of taking out the entire season’s snowpack. To avoid this problem, stay off of steep slopes near and above treeline facing north to east to southeast.
A decent freeze last night will have lessened the threat of wet avalanches at lower elevations but don’t let your guard down. There is still plenty of moist, weak snow below the new snow that could fail under your added weight. Continue to use safe travel practices and conservative terrain selections to safe today.