Wolf Creek Ski Area Patroller Colin Drew Sutton was killed in a backcountry avalanche incident on 4 March 2014.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), Sutton was in a group of four patrollers from Colorado’s Wolf Creek that were transported via helicopter to Pt. 12,505, which is approximately one mile west of Conejos Peak, and around 16 air miles SE of the Wolf Creek area where they typically patrol.
The preliminary CAIC report says the group was involved in area reconnaissance, conducting exploration and snow science research. They had split into two groups of two. Sutton and his partner traveled to a location where Sutton had dug a snowpit while his partner observed and spotted him from above. The other group of two had descended in adjacent terrain and were waiting at the helicopter pick-up location near the valley bottom.
The avalanche released at approximately 1:30 PM, while Sutton was exiting the slope after completing his snowpit. He was swept away, but was located by beacon search and rapidly extricated by his partner and the second team of two patrollers. Resuscitation efforts initiated at the site were maintained as he was flown to Durango’s Mercy Regional Medical Center. Sutton was pronounced dead at approximately 4:45 PM by attending physicians.
Avalanche.org reports that this was the 18th of 23 avalanche incidents reported in the US during the 2013-2014 ski season, and the 6th of 7 reported in Colorado. Colin Sutton is the 7th of 8 Colorado fatalities reported this season. Approximately 32 percent of US avalanche fatalities this season have occurred in Colorado.
According to a Club Colorado report, Sutton was 38, born 11 May 1975, and began skiing at Wolf Creek when he was three years old. A celebration of life was held on Sunday, 9 March 2014, at the Sutton Farm.
He was a full time paid patroller at Wolf Creek for approximately 12 years. Sutton was an NSP member and Senior Alpine Patroller certified in the NSP’s Outdoor Emergency Care and also held a current EMT credential. He was a Certified Level III Avalanche Technician, State of Colorado Type I Explosives Permit holder, Wolf Creek Snow Study Director, and was a Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment Qualified Dog Handler with his black Lab “Boca”.
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