A pair of snowmobilers triggered an 800-foot wide avalanche near Georgia Pass east of Breckenridge on Tuesday morning, killing one and prompting a rescue effort involving more than 30 people, two dog teams and a helicopter reports the Aspen Times.
It was the second Colorado avalanche death in just three days, underscoring the current danger of large, destructive slides despite generally moderate avalanche risk.
The slide occurred between the Middle Fork of the Swan River and Georgia Pass. It grew rapidly, spreading 800 feet wide and traveling more than 2,000 feet. It triggered another slide as it ran, and the two merged, Summit County Rescue Group spokesman Charles Pitman said. The as yet unidentified man fatally buried in Tuesday’s slide was found and dug out of four feet of snow roughly an hour-and-a-half after the initial report came in at 11 am.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) rated avalanche conditions as moderate on Tuesday, the second risk rating on a scale of five. That’s a general average for an entire area, however, and experts still urge backcountry travelers to be wary in slide-prone terrain.
“All avalanche danger is local,” Pitman said. “The average for the county is moderate, but there are pockets of lower and higher danger.”
CAIC deputy director Brian Lazar said that the Summit County area is currently experiencing several avalanche problems, all exacerbated by the recent snowfall.
“The most likely avalanches right now involve the recent storm snow,” he said. “On most slopes, the threat from fairly large, wet avalanches is the most widespread problem.”
Tuesday’s death came just three days after another avalanche death in Pitkin County. A pair of sidecountry skiers left Aspen Highlands resort Sunday afternoon through a gate and triggered a slide while ascending through an area known as Maroon Bowl.
One of them, John Galvin, was killed. His body was recovered Tuesday morning. Glavin was a beloved, 30-year veteran of Mountain Rescue Aspen.