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Snowboarder Dies in Early Season Avalanche

posted: 01/01/2000
by Geordie Brackin

The victim, Samuel Raymond Teetzen, was snowboarding with his dog and two friends when the group triggered a 400-foot wide, 1- to 3- foot deep slide on the northeast side of Mines Peak. The 1,000 vertical-foot-long avalanche occurred at approximately 10:30 am according to Grand County Sheriff Rodney Johnson.

The other two members, Jacob Manchester and Aaron Tripolino, were not injured. Manchester and Tripolino told Johnson the trio had skied Berthoud Pass almost 50 times last year. "They were knowledgeable and savvy, both in terms of the terrain and avalanches, said Johnson. "They had the experience.

According to Scott Toepfer, a mountain weather and avalanche forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, human-triggered avalanches were also reported on Loveland and Independence Pass on Sunday. A low-density storm dropped 9-12 inches of new snow on the central mountains, creating a hard slab atop weaker layers (that remained from October storms), while increasing winds and rising temperatures added stress.

"This time of year everyone's really gung ho about getting out there--dusting off the skis and getting their ski legs back. Most people think we can't have big avalanches this early in the season, says Toepfer. "This certainly proves that is not the case. Don't look at calendar dates. Avalanches happen in the mountains--even in November.

Teetzen, who was buried under approximately three feet of snow when his body was recovered by rescuers at 12:30 pm, was skiing without a beacon.

"Why he didn't bring a beacon with him, we don't know, says Toepfer. "Unfortunately now it's too late to ask.

Teetzen's death is the first of its kind this season. Twenty-seven people were killed by avalanches in the U.S. last winter and 30 people have died each year, on average, over the last decade. There were 30 to 40 rescuers involved from Grand County Search and Rescue, East Grand Fire District, Grand County Emergency Medical, Alpine Search and Rescue, Summit County Search and Rescue, and Clear Creek County.

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