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Some Still Not Using Safety Gear After Avalanche Death

BERTHOUD PASS, Colo. (CBS4) – So far this season three people in Colorado have died in avalanches. The most recent fatality was a snowboarder on Berthoud Pass last week.

The body of 26-year-old Jeffrey Williams was found buried in that snow two days after he went missing. It’s a popular backcountry area called “The Fingers.” He was not wearing any avalanche safety gear and on Tuesday CBS4’s Stan Bush found more people making the same mistake.

Ryan Brownsberger went in to the backcountry Tuesday morning without any safety gear.

“It’s kind of expensive and I don’t really need (any), I’m just going down the ravine,” Brownsberger said.

He wasn’t alone. In the hour Bush spent on Berthoud Pass he saw nearly a dozen snowboarders hiking without any avalanche safety gear at all.

“It’s pretty ridiculous because it puts everyone in jeopardy,” another snowboarder said.

The Fingers is one of the most popular areas in the state for backcountry skiing and boarding — its slopes are steep and loaded with snow. Under the right conditions, they can be unpredictable.

Miller’s friend Jill Stoffels was out on The Fingers on Tuesday.

“I was hoping that with his death that people would realize it’s a bit more dangerous up here than they expected,” Stoffels said. “It’s frustrating.”

Mike Everisp is mission coordinator for the Alpine Rescue Team. He said wearing the right gear at least gives avalanche victims a fighting chance.

“If you have the proper gear, you have a beacon, you’re going to be found that much quicker,” Everisp said.

Bush did see many others headed out fully prepared.

The Alpine Rescue Team says 2010 was their busiest year ever. They responded to 116 rescues.

  • Eileen Dimelow

    It’s people like Brownsberger that put the rest of us in danger. It doesn’t matter how good you are avalanches will kill anyone. If your life isn’t worth the $300 a beacon costs, than that is pathetic.

  • DenverVet

    I don’t know why anyone would even go where there is a chance of an avalanch. Its called “looking for trouble”.

  • G Foley

    Not only did you spell Mike Everist’s name wrong, but you got the deceased persons name wrong – not even close.

  • John Sanderson - GCSAR

    Ski Depot in Winter Park is offering a Avalanche Safety bundle for $329.99 – Backcountry Access Tracker Beacon, a G3 Probe Pole and a Black Diamond Deploy 3 shovel

    Ice Box Sports in Fraser is offering $50 off a beacon and 15% off packs, shovels and probes

    Both of these are great deals and a fantastic way to get safe.

  • Bill Wedgwood

    Near my home, the White Mountains of NH is the only place east of the Rockies where the USFS posts snow rangers. Being an OLD member of the Alpine Rescue Team in Evergeen, CO, I was trained to minimize risk. In NH avalanche terrain I always carry a beacon, probe, and shovel. Most don’t, increasing their odds of buying the farm in an avalanche, or rendering them useless in a rescue situation. Although not MRA certified, we are very fortunate to have a couple of rescue teams with world class climbers with experience on Everest and other high altitude ranges. Rick Wilcox, Marc Synnott, Freddie Wilkinson, Marc Chauvin and others who don’t immediately come to mind. Not forgetting old timer George Hurley!!

  • Friends of Berthoud Pass

    Awareness and education are key. Check out the Friends of Berthoud Pass grassroots avalanche awareness program.

  • Voly ski patrol gal

    How about seeking permission from FS for someone like BCA to set up an avie gear rental spot in the parking lot and bank cost of rentals towards purchase of complete set :)

  • Coloradokevin

    Every year there are a ton of folks out in the Berthoud Pass / Loveland Pass “sidecountry” areas who don’t have the appropriate level of knowledge, experience, or equipment for such adventures.

    I personally believe that training, experience, and judgment are far more important items to carry in the backcountry than an avalanche beacon. Simply stated, the best way to survive an avalanche is to not get caught in one in the first place.

    Beacons, shovels, and probes are great pieces of gear to have, and I consider them essential when I’m in backcountry avalanche terrain. But, these items are equivalent to a seatbelt and airbag system in a car… they may save your life when something goes terribly wrong, but it’s probably a better idea to figure out how to drive the car safely in the first place.

    But, as should be expected, the people who routinely travel without these standard pieces of avalanche safety equipment are very often the people who have little (if any) avalanche training/experience. As we see every year in this state, that is sometimes a recipe for disaster.

  • Drew Chezwik


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