Colorado Snowpack Turns Deadly

Aspen loses esteemed local to avalanche just days after a close call

A look up at the Independence Pass slide. Photo: Tess Weaver

A look up at the Independence Pass slide. Photo: Tess Weaver

Just days after what the Colorado Avalanche Information Center called a “very, very, very large and destructive class 5 avalanche” almost claimed the life of one Aspen native, the town is now mourning the loss of another local.

Adam Dennis, a long-time Aspen resident and photographer, passed away on April 4 at the age of 38. According to local reports, Dennis was caught and buried by an avalanche in Maroon Bowl just outside of Aspen Highlands. In addition to being a respected member of the Aspen community, Dennis was a friend of many on the Powder staff. We will be posting more on his life in the coming days.

On Saturday, local skiers Pat Sewell, Dayla Robinson and Tess Weaver (a Powder senior correspondent) triggered a massive class V slide on a north-facing aspect of Independence Pass. That slide ran 2,000 feet, and carried Sewell for 300 feet. Sewell was partially buried, but managed to dig himself out. The avalanche propagated to the ground on old, rotten layers from early in the season. The crown ranged from 2-10 feet in height. We will be posting more on that incident as well.

The CIAC report on Saturday’s slide is here

For more on Adam Dennis’ incident read this

If you are considering any backcountry travel, please be cautious and consult the Colorado Avalanche Information Center prior to making any decision.

Update: More on the Adam Dennis fatality here:

Add a comment

  • http://www.bootdryer.com/ Ski Boot Dryer

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the family… I am so sorry for your lose…

  • greg

    I read this in an Aspen news article about the accident:

    Bockelmann is a highly-trained avalanche educator. He said “everything was done by the book as far as avalanche protocol” and that the group’s ski decent began around 1 p.m. The slide was a deep-slab avalanche below treeline, Bockelmann said.

    Members of Mountain Rescue Aspen assessed the area Monday afternoon and evening. Because of avalanche danger, the recovery effort was put off until early today, Crider said. Sunday’s storm dropped 12 to 15 inches of snow, and Crider said slope instability, including the threat of secondary avalanches, was “really bad” in the slide area.“We might have to wait and talk to SkiCo about setting bombs to shake it up,” Crider said.

    What book is he reading? “How to make a dangerous backcountry descent by picking a highly committing line on a high hazard day”. That book doesn’t have a happy ending.

    Please don’t frame stories like these as accidents. These guys put their lives in obvious danger instead of waiting for stability to improve.

  • http://wyomingwhiskey.net/Free_Climbing_the_Grand_teton.htm JHmailman

    “everything was done by the book as far as avalanche protocol”

    Sounds familiar. Big Avi sweeps 2000′ down the mountain. Just happened up here in Jackson Hole with Jimmy Chin (see April cover of OUTSIDE magazine). The skiers took reasonable measures to guard against a slide Stuff Happens.

    “These guys put their lives in obvious danger instead of waiting for stability to improve”

    Sure, they could have waited. Those who fail to take risks in life get nowhere. I think these guys knew the risks better than most. Driving a car is dangerous and kills far more people than all the outdoor sports combined. The risk is known, accepted, and managed to the extent that one can. You can sit out life or take it by the horns.

  • http://www.sports-outdoor-guide.com outdoor-sporty

    i am sorry for your lose, too. god bles you.

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