Description: Every year a multitude of people venture out into the snow to go snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling or climbing. Many are not fully informed of the dangers and the necessary risk management practices. This book sheds light on the fatalities that occurred last year and what went wrong in order to help others learn and improve their own margin of safety.
The family of Peter Marshall, who was killed in an avalanche during an AIARE advanced avalanche safety class with the Silverton Avalanche School, has dropped the school and teacher from their lawsuit. It appears that a settlement was reached. A complaint remains open against Backcountry Access, their owner K2 Sports, and K2 owner Kohlberg & Company.
Last month the family dropped its claims against the county, school and guide. Attorneys for the Marshall family have not returned calls or responded to emails and representatives from the county and school declined to comment, indicating a settlement amount was most likely agreed upon.
The family had argued that the school and guide had misled Marshall into taking the class by “falsely presenting” that school staff “possessed deep operational experience in avalanche terrain.” The family also claimed the school and guide displayed “gross negligence.”
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) report pointed to several mistakes during the advanced class, including a group of skiers gathered on a slope steep enough to slide, those skiers misjudging the steepness of that slope and a failure to recognize clear avalanche hazards. The guide triggered the first avalanche, which swept the whole group down the slope. A second avalanche buried Marshall under several feet of snow.
The family of the 40-year-old Longmont skier is still suing K2 Sports and its subsidiary Backcountry Access, which makes an air bag backpack that was not deployed when rescuers found Marshall buried in more than 8 feet of avalanche debris. “Peter Marshall attempted to trigger his Float 32 avalanche air bag system but it did not fully deploy or inflate,” according to the complaint filed in Boulder District Court.
Peter Marshall died in an avalanche during an avalanche safety class near Red Mountain Pass in 2019. In an avalanche lawsuit his family names the school, the guide, and Backcountry Access.
The slide swept six skiers down a slope. All of them were part of a Level 2 American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) class. Which was offered by the Silverton Avalanche School.
The family is suing the guide, school and local rescue group. And also the maker of an avalanche airbag and its private equity firm owner. This lawsuit marks the second recent legal action involving avalanches based on reports by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).
“We have a block of harder snow over a section of weak sugary facets of the ground, so we have something over nothing," said Dave Zinn, avalanche expert. "This is the recipe for an avalanche, all you need now is a steep slope and a trigger.”
“Really watch out for those signs of instability -- like shooting cracks. Do some avalanche testing - dig stability tests, do an extended column test, see if you get stable results," said Zinn. "And if you don't see (stable results), find a different slope."
A new avalanche beacon training park outside Minturn, Colorado gives the public an accessible opportunity to practice using avalanche transceivers. Beacons are a critical piece of safety equipment for winter backcountry recreation.
Nearly 40% of the people caught in an avalanche last season had taken a traditional style formal Level 1 avalanche class. About 70% had intermediate or advanced avalanche training. This mirrors previous research.
While the number of backcountry beginners involved in snow avalanches stayed similar before and after the pandemic and the number of intermediate users involved in avalanches actually decreased, the number of advanced skiers involved in avalanches spiked.
According to the avalanche study the results agree with previous research that has indicated that avalanche education does not reduce avalanche exposure.