Backcountry Skier Killed by Avalanche Near Telluride, CO

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San Miguel County Search and Rescue, Telluride Ski Patrol and Telluride Avalanche Dogs prepare for insertion in search for missing #matterhornskier. Credit: Facebook

Search and Rescue crews on Monday recovered the body of a missing backcountry skier who died in an avalanche near Telluride, CO on Sunday. The man had been skiing with his dog in the greater Base Camp area, about 12 miles south of Telluride, when the slide occurred, according to the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office. The skier’s dog was found barking and in distress by the man’s vehicle parked at the Matterhorn Nordic parking lodge.

Adverse weather delayed the original search on Sunday night. Ground resources were dispatched once air avalanche mitigation was completed, and teams working with avalanche dogs found his body just before 2 pm yesterday in a slide estimated to be 300 feet wide by 600 feet long on the west side of Yellow Mountain, the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office says. The slide is believed to have occurred Sunday.

PRELIMINARY REPORT:

On Sunday, March 3, 2019, a backcountry skier was reported overdue near the Matterhorn nordic trail system north of Trout Lake, near Lizard Head Pass. Two members of San Miguel County Search and Rescue were flown in via helicopter and spotted a large avalanche and debris pile, but it was late in the day and there was still risk from further avalanches. They planned for a search and rescue mission the following day.

On Monday, March 4, San Miguel Search and Rescue and the Telluride Ski Patrol sent search teams. Search teams concentrated on a large pile of avalanche debris east of Priest Lake in an area locally know as Base Camp 1. Search dogs alerted, and rescuers confirmed the body of the missing skier using probes. He was buried approximately 1 meter deep. The avalanche appeared to be triggered by the skier as indicated by the visible ski track. This was a soft slab avalanche that broke around 100 feet wide and ran at least 400 vertical feet. It released on a south-facing slope at an elevation of approximately 10500 feet. It was very small relative to the path and large enough to bury, injure, or kill a person (SS-ASu-R2-D2)

Our deepest condolences go out to the families and friends of the people involved. We will publish more information as it becomes available. Thank you to Telluride Helitrax for details and images of the avalanche.

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Telluride Avalanche Dogs and their handlers inserted to begin their search for missing backcountry skier. Credit: Facebook

A Colorado Avalanche Information Center spokesperson described the slide as “destructive and large enough to bury, injure or kill a person.” 

“We are all deeply saddened to lose another husband, father and beloved member of our community in such a tragic event,” San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Master said. “This is the second avalanche death in less than two weeks in the region.”

The area is still closed to the public, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The skier who died has not yet been identified.

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The avalanche occurred 12-miles south of Telluride, CO.

On Sunday, further avalanches dumped snow across a section of Interstate 70, a highway that connects the Denver area to ski resorts, between Frisco and Copper Mountain. No injuries were reported.

Although very small relative to the path, it serves as a warning of the danger out there right now, and that even a ‘small’ slide can prove fatal.

This season there have been 18 avalanche deaths in the United States, and 6 in Canada.


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