HomeNews Loveland Pass avalanche takes two Crested Butte locals, five total
Loveland Pass avalanche takes two Crested Butte locals, five total
Written by Alissa Johnson
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Local community mourns
Crested Butte lost two of its own to a hard slab avalanche at Loveland Pass on Saturday, April 20. The avalanche has been called one of the nation’s deadliest and garnered attention from an unprecedented number of media outlets. The nation, it seems, wants to know how a party of five backcountry boarders and one skier got caught in the avalanche, and how five of them died.
In Crested Butte, however—a community known for its love of the backcountry—we are struggling to pay tribute to the fallen. Ryan Novak, 33, and Ian Lamphere, 35, were among the five men killed in the avalanche, and survivor Jerome Boulay was completely buried but able to clear an airway around his face. Sources close to Boulay say he is okay and surrounded by friends and family. The tragedy is reverberating throughout the community. Spray paint on the side of the Lobar reads, “Novak, Rest in Peace.” A poster on the front door invites the community to leave messages for the deceased. And by Tuesday, three days after the avalanche, a fundraiser for Lamphere’s daughter and fiancée had raised nearly $20,000, four times the original goal.
The Sheep Creek avalanche The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) released its final accident report on Wednesday, April 24, stating that the avalanche was caused by an unintentional release. “The avalanche was a hard slab, triggered by one or more party members at the bottom of the slope,” the report read. The average crown height was five feet but ranged from one foot to 12 feet high across the face. According to the report, the group had discussed the risk of deep slab instability and picked its route accordingly, avoiding north facing slopes and allowing approximately 50 feet between people as they climbed. The group was only a few hundred yards from the highway when “they felt a large collapse and heard a whumpf.” Exposed members of the group ran toward a small stand of trees where two members waited, but “the avalanche was quite large and engulfed the entire group from above at 10:15 a.m.” (A detailed report is available on the CAIC website at avalanche.state.co.us/) First responders reached the scene around 1:45 p.m. A statement released by first responder Mike Bennett—who knew the boarders and had skied with another group on the north side of I-70 that day—indicated that he and other members of his group responded to the scene when the boarders failed to return to their cars. Bennett said he found Boulay and dug him out with the help of another rescuer while others located and recovered the deceased. Bennett’s statement stressed, “It should be known that many of the members of this group were extremely experienced and educated in backcountry travel. They had all of the necessary gear, and knowledge of traveling in avalanche terrain.” The group, which also included Joe Timlin, 32, Christopher Peters, 32, and Rick Gaukel, 33, had been part of an event organized by Timlin called the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Bash. They aimed to raise money for CAIC and raise awareness about backcountry safety. That connection and the high publicity surrounding the tragedy have spurred debate and speculation about what happened, resulting in a frenzy of media, from CBS to CNN, trying to reach Boulay for an interview. According to a statement released by Venture Snowboards, where Boulay is a sales manager, “We are grateful to report that [Boulay] is unharmed, though he is obviously shaken by Saturday’s events. While Jerome is communicating with the victims’ families and the CAIC, he is refraining from public comment.” The local community has been giving kudos to Boulay, a Paris native, as a well-loved local who remains determined to keep the story focused on the people we’ve lost and their families. Mike Horn, editor of the backcountry snowboarding magazine Kronicle, says Boulay has been “a fixture in Crested Butte for a long time. He’s really revered by the snowboard community. He’s an incredibly nice guy who’s really well loved and respected. Against all odds, Jerome survived this monstrous slide. But it’s of absolute importance to him that the focus is on those who did not.”
Honoring those we’ve lost The speculation surrounding the avalanche has been hard for many members of the Crested Butte community to witness, as friends of the victims seek to comfort their families. Lamphere and Novak were fixtures in the snowboarding and skiing communities. Both men were on the verge of new beginnings: Lamphere got engaged only two weeks before the avalanche, and Novak was in the process of moving back to Crested Butte from California. According to Jake Parr, former owner of the Colorado Boarder, Novak worked at the Boarder from 2005 to 2012 doing graphic design. During a visit to Crested Butte about three weeks ago, he landed a job doing design work for the Lobar, the Secret Stash, and the Sweet Spot. Parr said Novak was driving from California to Colorado when his car broke down in Grand Junction, yet he still made it the Backcountry Bash. “His enthusiasm for snowboarding was ‘live to ride and ride to live,’” Parr said. Parr added, “Ryan was a really unique, inspiring person to all of us. There was never a time the guy didn’t say yes to snowboarding. Sometimes at the office we didn’t get to pick our heads up until 3:30 p.m., and sure enough it was at his suggestion that we would get in a couple of runs in on the mountain.” Lamphere was also a familiar face in the Gunnison Valley, with a skiing resume that included co-founding Backcountry TV and the Stowe Mountain Film Festival, and training as a heli-ski guide in Haines, AK. He was also co-owner of Gecko Climbing Skins and owned the U.S. distribution of Stockli skis. Lamphere was the sole skier in the group on Saturday, but he was deeply connected to the snowboarding community because Gecko Skins, developed skins for splitboards that outperformed traditional skins. In the valley, he boot-packed for Irwin and Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and according to mountain guide Steve Banks, “spent many days skiing and biking in the Crested Butte area. This winter he found a new way to be in the backcountry, towing Madelyn around Snodgrass and Washington Gulch in a Chariot he custom fitted with fat powder skis.” Banks grew up with Ian in Vermont, where they went to the same high school, and has been spending time with his family since the avalanche occurred. “The family is doing OK. It is obviously very difficult for his fiancée right now...” he said. “But the fund for Elizabeth and Madelyn is growing with the support of friends, family and others in the outdoor sports industry.” Donations can still be made at indiegogo.com/projects/fund-for-madelyn. Horn, who was also friends with Lamphere, put the community’s grief for Lamphere and Novak into perspective. “This avalanche took a lot away from us,” he said. “I lost a close friend in Ian Lamphere. Elizabeth lost her husband-to-be. Eight-month-old Madelyn lost her father. Ian’s passing is already too much to bear. Factor in the loss of Novak and the other three men, and the sorrow being felt in this community and beyond is incomprehensible.” Services for Lamphere are being planned for the first week of May in Vermont, just after what would have been his 36th birthday. A memorial will likely be planned for Crested Butte shortly thereafter. Services for Novak will be held in Deposit, New York on Monday, April 29. A local celebration of his life will be held in Crested Butte. Date and location to be announced. In lieu of flowers, donations will be received at the Crested Butte Avalanche Center. Address: P.O. Box 1061, Crested Butte CO 81224. Tel: 970-349-4022. Email: