Snowshoer and 2 Dogs Killed by Avalanche in Colorado on Friday

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Looking to the north at the snowshoe track and the flank of the avalanche.Credit: CAIC

The body of a missing 27-year-old Denver man caught in an avalanche on Friday was located at approximately 11:35 am on Saturday 26th February 2022. The male had been snowshoeing with three friends and two dogs when the avalanche came down on them near Yule Creek, outside the Town of Marble, CO. The male’s body and the two dogs were found approximately 1.5 meters (nearly 5 feet) deep in the avalanche path. This is the average depth to find a person in any avalanche.

The group had traveled on snowshoes along an unmaintained road. Three of the people and both dogs moved to a road that cut mid-slope along the side of a steep gully. They triggered an avalanche, and the moving snow pushed them down into the gully, where the debris formed a deep pile. Two people were partially buried but dug themselves out of the snow. The other person and both dogs were completely buried and killed.

Looking uphill at the crown of the avalanche. Credit: CAIC

The avalanche was approximately 50 feet wide and ran 250 feet vertically. The face of the crown was 1 to 2 feet deep. It released on a west-facing, below-treeline slope, according to a preliminary CAIC report.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, at the request of the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office, deployed Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA) at approximately 8:30 am toward Marble with an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to fly over the two different avalanche areas. This morning’s mission was to assess the avalanche danger in and around the area to send ground teams to search. The area being assessed was the last known location of the missing subject. After reviewing the UAV video footage, and the information from Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), MRA determined the area was safe to search.

Concurrently, CAIC had four team members assessing the slide area near Yule Creek. While CAIC members were assessing the stability of the snow around the scene, they noticed several personal belongings in a concentrated area. The CAIC team explored the area further and located the body of the missing subject.

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Looking upstream (to the south) at the lower portion of Yule Creek. The avalanche released as the snowshoers traveled along the road on the left side of the gully. Credit: Mountain Rescue Aspen

This recovery was a multi-organizational effort. Mountain Rescue Aspen fielded 29 volunteers during both operational periods, West Elk Mountain Rescue (WEMR) fielded eight volunteers, Carbondale Rural Fire Protection District provided five members, and CAIC fielded four members.

At approximately 3:54 pm, rescuers pulled the subject up to the safe location, roughly 200 feet above where he was found. The extraction of the subject was a combined effort by all organizations involved. MRA members were out of the field at approximately 7:39 pm.

The Pitkin County Sheriff, Joe DiSalvo, would like to extend his gratitude to all organizations involved and those in the community who have assisted in locating the missing subject. MRA would like to remind backcountry travelers to be aware that smaller slopes can be hazardous. MRA would like to remind travelers to carry avalanche rescue gear in unmanaged areas.

This winter, the fatality is the eleventh in the United States and the thirteenth in North America.

A Google Earth image of lower Yule Creek, looking to the north. The red circle marks the accident site. The Town of Marble is visible in the upper-left portion of the image. Credit: CAIC
Marble, CO.

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