CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A skier and snowboarder survived an avalanche in the backcountry area southwest of Monarch Pass on Thursday.
“The second skier down triggered an avalanche, which then washed over the snowboarder,” Brian Lazar, deputy director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said.
Lazar said the preliminary investigation showed that the skier deployed his airbag and was partially buried and lost a ski. The snowboarder who was below was unable to deploy her airbag, and she was partially buried without a viable airway. The skier was able to extricate her.
Both riders were uninjured and made it out under their own power.
“This could have gone in a much different direction very easily,” Lazar said.
The couple also had their dog with them. After searching for the dog following the avalanche, they left without being able to find it.
“We did have some search and rescue members visit yesterday, and they didn’t see any signs of tracks,” Lazar said.
It was presumed the dog died in the avalanche until, according to Lazar, the dog was found on a trailhead on Monarch Pass late Saturday night.
“Miraculously the dog survived and made it back to Monarch Pass after spending many nights in cold weather,” Lazar said.
It’s important when traveling in avalanche terrain to remember to consider your own safety and the safety of those around you. That includes, but is not limited to, other groups, partners and pets.
“This year really highlighted any outside activity in the winter needs planning and preparation,” Lazar said.
So far during the current avalanche season, four people and three dogs traveling with their owners have been killed in avalanches.
“Of course, we will never exactly know what happened to this dog. Only the dog will know that story,” Lazar said.
People tackling the backcountry need to bring, at minimum, survival gear of an avalanche transceiver, a probe pole and a collapsible shovel. If you fall victim to an avalanche and are traveling with your dog, Lazar said the best thing to do is keep an eye on them and attempt to save them once you’re safe and if it’s safe to do so.
“We don’t want dogs to wear avalanche transceivers. We want people to be searchable by transceivers and not mixable with potential dogs with transceivers on,” Lazar said.
Before heading out on your winter exploration in the high country, Lazar said people need to check the avalanche forecast and take an avalanche know-before-you-go course. Lazar suggested looking here.