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CAIC: Avalanche watch, updated accident report

Mar 2, 2015

Looking up the avalanche path near the burial site on February 23rd, 2015.
Credit CAIC/Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol

There’s an avalanche watch for Aspen and surrounding areas, from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. The CAIC says new snow and winds from an ongoing winter storm make natural and human triggered snow slides likely on steep slopes with an angle of more than thirty degrees.

The final accident report for last week’s fatal avalanche west of Aspen Mountain has been released. Long time local Marty Gancsos fell about six hundred feet before being buried in avalanche debris.  Blase Reardon is the Backcountry Avalanche Forecaster for the Aspen area. He describes how the accident is similar to others that have happened near Aspen.

“There’s a lot of accidents where people are killed below treeline, on small slopes, often gullies, and they’ve typically left from the ski area boundary.” 

Reardon says backcountry skiers often mistakenly think they’re safer in those locations. The review of the accident shows lots of recent snow plus a dry spell earlier in the year were major players. 

“We had that seven weeks of dry weather, and that really weakened the snowpack," Reardon laments. "Then we put about an inch and a half or more, depending on where you are, to two inches of water on that. It may be February but those are conditions we more typically see in November.” 

Avalanche victim Marty Gancsos died from asphyxiation and trauma injuries after getting caught in the slide in an area called Keno Woods outside of the Aspen Mountain ski boundary.