Local man Adam Dennis was killed Monday in an avalanche in the Aspen Highlands sidecountry.
Authorities received a call from members of a five-person group in which Dennis was skiing at 2:45 p.m., according to a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office press release. The caller, using a cell phone, reported the slide in Desolation Row, an out-of-bounds run dropping toward the Maroon Creek Valley accessed from the Highland Bowl ridge.
Dennis, 38, and his companions were all wearing beacons, said sheriff’s deputy Adam Crider. Other members of the group were able to ski to Dennis’ location and dig him out within 15 minutes of the slide, Crider said, but resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful.
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.
Dirk Bockelmann — Dennis’ good friend and roommate — was in Dennis’ group Monday.
“Adam was having the time of his life,” Bockelmann said.
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.
Dennis had lived in the valley for 13 years. He was an avid skier and could be found on the hill most days. He was also an accomplished photographer.
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.
The slide danger for the Aspen backcountry was rated as considerable Monday for areas above treeline, but moderate for areas below treeline, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. The slide occured below treeline and slid to the ground.
The center reported a gigantic slide on Independence Pass that three skiers triggered on Saturday. The skiers were lucky to survive that avalanche, which was estimated to be 2 to 10 feet deep. It ran some 2,000 feet to the valley floor.
Monday’s backcountry avalanche death is the second in the area this season. Brandon Zukoff was killed outside the Snowmass Ski Area on Feb. 22.