Evan Hannibal and Tyler DeWitt must pay $168,000 in restitution and are facing criminal charges.
On March 25, Evan Hannibal, 26, and Tyler DeWitt, 38, were backcountry snowboarding when their route caused an avalanche that buried a service road above the Eisenhower Tunnel. The two have been charged in Summit County with reckless endangerment and must pay $168,000 to the state of Colorado.
Hannibal and DeWitt were riding down a line above the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels when they triggered a small slide that caused a bigger avalanche in White River National Forest. According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), the avalanche damaged a remote avalanche control unit and covered Loop Road with debris up to 20 feet deep. The avalanche control unit is used to trigger small avalanches to mitigate the likelihood of more massive, more destructive slides.
Fortunately, there were no cars or people nearby, and no one was injured. When it happened, the men called 911 and spoke to law enforcement. According to the CAIC, both men were experienced backcountry riders familiar with the area. They also had avalanche rescue gear and a plan in place on the day of the avalanche.
Though the avalanche was an accident and Hannibal and DeWitt weren't trespassing, officials cited the snowboarders' actions as negligent. Prosecutors at the trial also used evidence from DeWitt's GoPro camera he wore that day.
According to the CAIC, six people died, and 33 were caught or buried in 20 avalanches across Colorado in the 2019-2020 season.
Backcountry skiing and boarding come with many dangers. Riders can trigger avalanches, particularly in windy, high-altitude areas. Many organizations across Colorado offer avalanche safety courses to help backcountry riders stay aware and practice safety in the mountains.