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28 March 2013

Airlift from Upper Bear Creek

Airlift from Upper Bear Creek

Skier with broken leg rescued by helicopter Tuesday

By Collin McRann
Staff reporter

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 6:07 AM CDT

A skier was rescued from Upper Bear Creek by helicopter on Tuesday morning after he broke his leg in a fall in Delta Bowl.

According to reports from the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, the man was skiing with a group of three or four friends when they dropped into Delta Bowl, outside of the Telluride Ski Area’s boundaries, from the top of the Gold Hill Ridge. Conditions were hard-packed and crusty, and the group hadn’t made it far when the man encountered a pocket of hollow crust, which threw him forward, causing serious fractures to both bones in one of his legs below the boot. After the fall, his friends called ski patrol, who responded with a toboggan. Due to the challenging nature of the terrain below, skiing out was not a viable option, and a helicopter was called in.

The group had avalanche rescue equipment with them at the time, as well as backcountry rescue cards, according to the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff’s deputy Todd Rector said the helicopter was called in around 10:45 a.m. He said though the terrain is steep in spots, the aircraft was able to land and successfully transport the man down to Town Park in Telluride. From Town Park the man was loaded onto an ambulance and eventually transported to Montrose for further treatment.

Ski patrol is typically first on the scene with skiing accidents, Rector said.

“The reality is patrol is always going to have a little bit of a head start because they are already up there and geared up,” Rector said. “But over the past few years we’ve been making an effort to do more training with them.”

This winter there have been a number of minor accidents in the Bear Creek area. In late January a man slid 1,700 feet down Temptation Chute before coming to a stop on a shelf near the bottom of Bear Creek — he was uninjured. Rector said there have also been a couple of minor evacuations out of Bear Creek this season, but neither involved a helicopter.

The San Juan Mountains are known for their high avalanche danger, and this winter has been no exception. An uneven snowpack combined with shifting temperatures have created some dangerous conditions over the course of the season. However, over the past week, avalanche danger has been decreasing with the melting snowpack.

On Wednesday, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported a low avalanche danger level below timberline for most of the Northern San Juans and a moderate level above the trees. The report was identical on Tuesday when the accident happened.

On Monday, the CAIC reported, a skier triggered an avalanche on a wind slab near Telluride above timberline. According to the center, wind slabs are currently very prone to slide and should be avoided.

According to the CAIC, there have been around nine known human-caused avalanches in or around Bear Creek since January.

In February a Durango skier was killed near Silverton in a slide. In all this winter in Colorado five people have died from avalanches and 34 people have been buried.

For the latest avalanche information, visit avalanche.state.co.us.

Airlift from Upper Bear Creek

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