By Karen Morfitt
CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– Avalanche experts are warning anyone headed into the backcountry to be extra cautious. On Tuesday, just north of Jones Pass, an avalanche partially buried a skier.
Jake Merelli and a friend were in the area and helped with the rescue.
“We thought for sure we were the only one’s up there we had not seen a single other person all day long,” he said.
It was right around 11 o’clock when their morning of skiing and boarding in the backcountry was interrupted.
“We all of the sudden had a skier come from uphill down towards us who was in a bit of a panic,” Merelli said.
The skier told them an avalanche slide caught, carried and then buried his friend up to his neck. The skier was seriously injured and needed help.
“I raced back down into the Jones Pass parking lot jumped in my truck and drove about a mile to a construction site where they had a landline,” he said.
Within the hour, rescue crews and deputies from Clear Creek County, along with the Alpine Rescue Team were on scene. Nearly a dozen people headed up the mountain before learning they would need to call Flight for Life.
“The noises the helicopter made inside the bowl is probably something I’ll never forget and as far as I understand they were able to get the man loaded up in just the nick of time,” he said.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center says the skiers who triggered the slide were in an area with heightened avalanche risk. In this case, that meant above tree line on a southeast facing slope.
For Merelli who has always called Colorado home staying safe is about staying informed.
“Rather than fearing and hiding from it you try to get as much education as you can and try to make sure your sense of adventure doesn’t over power your common sense,” Merelli said.
Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.