CDOT Employees Honored for Saving Skier from Avalanche

June 16, 2011 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - DENVER, COLORADO – Two current Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) employees and one former employee were honored during a meeting of the Colorado Transportation Commission in Denver on June 16 for their efforts to save a skier from an avalanche along U.S. 50 near Monarch Pass on February 27, 2011.

Receiving CDOT Achievement Awards in the category of Service were Salida-area residents Gene Hapl and Ron Bergmann, both employees of Alamosa Maintenance Section 7, CDOT Region 5, based at Poncha Springs.  Also honored was former CDOT employee Dustin Hapl of Salida.  Dustin Hapl is Gene Hapl’s son.

A fortunate series of events occurred to save the skier from the avalanche, which was the second to come down on U.S. 50 near the Monarch Mountain Resort that Sunday.  Dustin Hapl was waiting in a traffic queue during cleanup efforts for the first avalanche when he saw a skier appear on a slope high above the highway and trigger a slide that swept him down the mountainside.

Dustin Hapl immediately notified his father, who was working nearby, of the situation and a possible general location of the skier.  All three men dug frantically at the site where a ski pole tip was protruding from the snow.  The skier was buried at that location and the men were able to dig him out in time to save his life.  They estimate that they dug for four to five minutes and that the skier had little time remaining when they finally freed him.

The slide came down an extremely steep slope from the height of a 12-story building and completely covered U.S. 50.  The Monarch vicinity had received more than 40” of snow in storms that began the previous day.

CDOT Achievement Awards have been presented since 1995 in the categories of Service, Customer Service, Innovation, Safety, and General/Special.