17-Year-Old Survives Avalanche Near Copper Mountain

Slide On Bartlett Peak About 500 Feet Long

A 17-year-old skier was buried up to his neck but survived a weekend avalanche near Copper Mountain.

The Eagle County teen was skiing with two friends Saturday on the northeast side of Bartlett Peak between Copper Mountain and Leadville. The teen's friends, including one who made it down the slope safely, said they saw the skier make five or six turns before an avalanche broke about 50 feet above him and carried him to the bottom.

He was buried up to his neck, but his friends quickly ran over and dug him out.

They soon discovered he was injured so one of them climbed back up the chute to get cell phone coverage and made a 911 call for help.

Summit County rescuers determined GPS coordinates from the 911 call, and then directed a Flight for Life crew based in Frisco to fly directly to the victim.

The helicopter was able to land approximately 150 feet from the skier. The pilot, flight paramedic and the victim's two friends carried the man to the helicopter, and he was flown to St. Anthony's Summit Medical Center.

On Monday, he was moved to Vail Valley Medical Center in good condition.

The Summit County Rescue Group said the slide was about 500 feet long.

"It was 15 feet wide at the top, expanding to 65 to 75 feet wide at the toe, and about 500 to 600 vertical feet in length. The snow failed right down to the ground, and there were a lot of rocks," said Kevin Kelble, the flight paramedic at the scene. "You're getting swept down a slope that is covered in rocks and dirt and just nasty, nasty terrain and you are going through the grinder."

All three of the backcountry skiers had avalanche beacons, probes and shovels, and all three had been trained in avalanche awareness.

"(The victim) was extremely well-mannered. Very polite. They knew they were in a bad situation. But they knew help was there now. (His friends) did a tremendous job assisting us," Kelble said.

Rescue groups are warning backcountry skiers to be prepared for avalanches. All backcountry skiers should be fully equipped with avalanche gear and have the knowledge of how to use it, the Summit County Rescue Group said.

Kelble said he's seeing a big increase in people using the backcountry.

Already this season slides have been reported in Rocky Mountain National Park and on Independence, Loveland and Jones passes.

"There have been seven incidents and one close call reported in Colorado in October. Nine people have been caught, three of them partially buried and two of them fully buried," said Spencer Logan of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

"It's just fascinating that we’re almost on a record-setting pace. And I’m really surprised, to be honest with you , that we haven't had our first fatality," Kelble said.

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