CAIC: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

2023/03/16 - Colorado - Purgatory Creek, north of Durango

Published 2023/04/02 by Ethan Greene, Spencer Logan - Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Avalanche Details

  • Location: Purgatory Creek, north of Durango
  • State: Colorado
  • Date: 2023/03/16
  • Time: 6:00 PM (Estimated)
  • Summary Description: 3 residents caught, buried, and 1 killed
  • Primary Activity: Resident
  • Primary Travel Mode: Foot
  • Location Setting: Town/Settlement


  • Caught: 3
  • Partially Buried, Non-Critical: 0
  • Partially Buried, Critical: 1
  • Fully Buried: 2
  • Injured: 2
  • Killed: 1


  • Type: R
  • Trigger: N - Natural
  • Trigger (subcode): --
  • Size - Relative to Path: --
  • Size - Destructive Force: --
  • Sliding Surface: --


  • Slope Aspect: --
  • Site Elevation: 8900 ft
  • Slope Angle: --
  • Slope Characteristic: --

Accident Summary

A father and two children were moving between a building and vehicle when they were caught in a roof avalanche. The force of the avalanche threw one child towards the building, where their airway was covered in debris but part of their head was visible (partially buried-critical). The other two were completely buried about 10 feet away, in close proximity to each other, and under two to three feet of avalanche debris. Bystanders and emergency services excavated the three. All three were taken to hospital care. One of the children later died from injuries sustained in the avalanche. 

News article from The Durango Herald


All of the fatal avalanche accidents we investigate are tragic events. We do our best to describe each accident to help the people involved, and the community as a whole better understand them. We offer the following comments in the hope that they will help people avoid future avalanche accidents.

The CAIC documented four deaths in Colorado and 19 total deaths in the United States due to roof avalanches between the winters of 1993 and 2022. Roof avalanches accounted for about 2% of the total avalanche fatalities in the United States over the thirty-year period.