UPDATE: Mountain Rescue Volunteer Killed in Aspen Avalanche Identified as 57-Year Old Local John Galvin

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aspen, maroon bowl, avalanche
John Galvin, 57, was killed Sunday in an avalanche in Maroon Bowl outside of Aspen Highlands. He was a 30-year veteran of the Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteer search-and-rescue group.

John Galvin, a Roaring Fork Valley resident and 30-year Mountain Rescue Aspen member was identified Monday as the individual who died in the Maroon Bowl avalanche outside of the Aspen Highlands ski area boundary, reports the Aspen Daily News.

“John helped save the lives of hundreds of visitors and locals who were in need while injured or stranded in our mountains,” said Justin Hood, president of Mountain Rescue Aspen, in a joint press release Monday from MRA and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

aspen, maroon bowl, avalanche
Maroon Bowl on April 8. The avalanche in the left portion of the image was triggered with explosives. The avalanche on the right, indicated by the red arrow, is the accident site. Credit: Art Burrows

Galvin was killed after getting caught in a slide in Maroon Bowl, located to the right of the hike to Highland Bowl in a section considered “side country” from the ski area boundary. He and his partner, who rescued himself and alerted authorities about the avalanche, were free skiing and not working on a mission related to Galvin’s volunteer work with MRA, said Alex Burchetta, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office director of operations.

“He was recreating and not part of a Mountain Rescue mission or a search-and-rescue team,” he said Monday. “They were up there on their own.”

Conditions were rated as extremely dangerous on Sunday due to heavy new snow and other factors. Galvin’s ski partner was not identified in the joint statement.

aspen, maroon bowl, avalanche
A slide on Maroon Bowl, Aspen, Sunday. Credit: Erik Skarvan

The slide, which was seen by members of the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol, was first called into the county emergency dispatch office at 2:28 pm on Sunday. Aspen Skiing Co. was notified immediately as well.

Crews Monday postponed the effort to recover Galvin’s body, pending further snow-safety analysis from CAIC personnel, due to prevailing risky conditions, according to the statement.

“CAIC personnel will work with Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol this week to provide snow-safety assessments, which will be used to determine the best time and date to recover Galvin’s body,” the release says. “Due to current conditions, there will be no attempts to recover Galvin’s body Monday, April 9.”

Initial reports Sunday indicated that the avalanche didn’t run especially deep and that it involved recent snow that had fallen and not depth hoar that developed from changing temperatures and snowpack.

“The avalanche that caught and killed this victim didn’t break ground,” Brian Lazar, deputy director for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said Sunday evening. “The first reports don’t indicate it was a wall-to-wall, tree-breaking avalanche. There was enough recent storm snow to carry this person into some obstacles,” he said. It’s believed the victim hit a tree in the slide.

Highland Bowl, the area’s premier, hike-to terrain, was closed Sunday due to unstable conditions. Aspen Skiing Co. also published a notice Saturday night warning of “no uphill ski traffic on Aspen Mountain … due to avalanche danger.”

This was the second avalanche fatality in Colorado for the 2017-18 season. In January, 27-year-old Abel Palmer was caught in a slide near Red Mountain Pass in southern Colorado.

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