Two backcountry skiers died in an avalanche in the Gunnison National Forest, CO on Saturday, according to Gunnison County authorities. In a press release, the Gunnison Regional 911 Center said Owen Green, 27, and Michael Goerne, 37, both from near Aspen, were reported missing after they didn’t return from a backcountry ski expedition near Crested Butte.
Crested Butte Search and Rescue crews were sent to look for the men and found tracks leading into a fresh avalanche field near the area known as Death Pass Saturday night. They didn’t find any tracks leaving the slide area. Conditions were said to be too adverse, so the team turned back. On Sunday, crews set out again and found the bodies of the two men by following beacon signals. The men’s bodies were extracted around 1 p.m. and about two hours later they were transported by the team to the helicopter landing zone at Brush Creek, police said.
“At approximately 10 p.m. tracks were discovered leading into a fresh avalanche field near the area known as Death Pass. No tracks exiting the slide were found and faint beacon signals were located in the slide area,” according to a news release. “Shortly after midnight, it was determined conditions were too adverse to conduct a recovery operation.”
The preliminary document indicates the slide, in the East Brush Creek area near Crested Butte, took place at about 9,400 feet and fully buried both victims under 5-feet of snow. Green and Goerne’s deaths are the third and fourth avalanche deaths in Colorado this year.
The men were getting ready for the Grand Traverse, a 40-mile backcountry ski race across the Elk Mountains, friends said Sunday. The men were planning to be partners in the race next month from Crested Butte to Aspen. Green’s girlfriend, Kali Kopf, said Sunday the two “had been training together a lot” in the backcountry this winter.
The CAIC said in an avalanche advisory over the weekend that the strong storm Thursday dropped as much as 2 feet of dense snow and avalanche conditions remained dangerous in the central and southern Colorado mountains. In an advisory issued Sunday morning, the state agency warned that people “may even be able to trigger very large, very dangerous avalanches that break deeper in the snowpack. If you trigger one of these deeper avalanches it will most likely be inescapable.”