Avalanche investigators from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) must testify in the trial of Evan Hannibal and Tyler DeWitt according to Judge Casias. He dismissed a motion from the Attorney General’s Office to void subpoenas to keep them off the witness stand.
On March 25 DeWitt and Hannibal were snowboarding above the Loop Road at the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels. They triggered an avalanche. Nobody was injured but it covered more than 400 feet of the roadway up to 20 feet deep and damaged a remote avalanche-control installation.
The District Attorney charged both snowboarders with misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment.
Avalanche testimony by Colorado Avalanche Information Center boss Ethan Green in a criminal case could hinder the function of the agency, according to the state Attorney General.
Evan Hannibal provided his helmet video of the avalanche he triggered above Interstate 70 last March. The avalanche buried a service road and destroyed an avalanche mitigation installation protecting I-70. He thought the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) would use his submission to help educate others.
But Summit County prosecutors used the video for a criminal case. They seek restitution for the damaged avalanche mitigation device.
Now Attorney General Weiser has stepped in, asking Judge Casias to reject having state employees testify. He cites several reasons, such as their busy winter work schedules.
Friday started as a perfect winter day. About a foot of new snow fell overnight. In the morning the sky cleared. Then by the end of the day the Sierra Avalanche Center had received many avalanche reports. Some happened naturally but many were caused by skiers and snowboarders.
In the morning the Sierra Avalanche Center posted its forecast. The center stated the obvious - that storm slabs in the new snow were a big concern. They rated the avalanche danger as “considerable,” meaning that skiers and snowboarders were likely to trigger avalanches.
The Sierra Avalanche Center works to prevent accidents by issuing daily forecasts. The U.S. Forest Service hires three full-time avalanche forecasters who backcountry ski and then write reports. The Sierra Avalanche Center fundraises on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service to cover much of the payroll and related expenses. There are also three part-time paid observers who go skiing to check on conditions.
Two avalanche defendants, snowboarders, are facing charges and a $168,000 fine for an avalanche that threatened I-70. A judge just dismissed their motion to dismiss video of the avalanche they gave to Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
A Summit County Court judge dismissed a motion to suppress a GoPro video of the avalanche. Evan Hannibal and Tyler DeWitt had given the video to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).
The video is evidence in the Summit County District Attorney’s case against Hannibal and DeWitt. They are charged with reckless endangerment and could face a $168,000 fine. These are the first criminal charges ever filed against skiers involved in an avalanche in Colorado.
The Park City Mountain Canyons Ski Patrol closed off its access to the backcountry adjacent to the resort. The unusual step was taken after a couple of recent deadly slides amid high avalanche danger. Prior to a couple of recent fatal avalanches there had been numerous others in past years as well.
A 31-year-old man died after being buried in an avalanche while skiing in the adjacent backcountry. He accessed it via special gates at Park City Mountain. More recently, a U of U helicopter responded to rescue two skiers. One was buried in an avalanche and died. They also accessed the backcountry via Park City Mountain.
The second avalanche death in two years in Dutch Draw, and at least the fourth in total, has spurred an Avalanche Risk Discussion.
The victim and his girlfriend exited the backcountry access gate atop the Ninety-Nine 90 Express. Then they hiked up the ridge before dropping in to snowboard down a run called Conehead. The victim went first, and when he was about halfway down his girlfriend followed. Then an avalanche occurred. The woman was not caught in the slide.
Some people have argued more should be done to warn skiers who may be unaware of the dangers posed by backcountry terrain. They could put resort personnel near the gate to inform people of the risk. Or require checking out with ski patrol and carrying an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe. A check-out procedure is used at some other resorts.
Kevin Jack Steuterman, 31, died Friday, while snowboarding in the Dutch Draw area. Which is just off the 9990 chairlift in the Canyons area of Park City Ski Resort.
Steuterman was with his girlfriend around 10 a.m. when the avalanche occurred. According to the Utah Avalanche Center, Steuterman was buried under 2 feet of snow in a slide that was 150 feet wide and 400 feet long.
Steuterman was on a snowboard and his girlfriend was on skis. Neither was carrying avalanche rescue gear.
An avalanche survivor is talking about being buried by snow to encourage others to be safe while in the mountains. A year ago he had a life changing experience. He and some friends were snowboarding at Steamboat Resort when an avalanche was triggered above them.
Miraculously, he says his friends found him just as ski patrol was arriving. “I guess my buddies were saying they took my arm out and it just flopped and I was just blue.” He was taken to a hospital and was not injured.
He wants people to know that enjoying the mountains is still a good thing. Just make sure you go with people who have avalanche training.
'Your life is not worth that day of powder skiing': Officials warn of severe avalanche risk.
Avalanche Canada is warning this is not the time to be in the backcountry. They are reminding those who want to venture out, to check forecasts before going.
This has been a deadly week in B.C.’s backcountry. On Monday two snow bikers were killed in an avalanche near Pemberton. Then on Thursday a backcountry skier fell into a tree well and died near Whistler.
“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."