CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– It’s been a deadly season for Colorado backcountry users. On Sunday, the state reported two separate fatalities bringing the total number to 10 so far this season.
One of the two fatalities involved a backcountry snowboarder near Loveland Ski Area. He has been identified as 57-year-old David Heide from the Saint Mary’s area of Clear Creek County.
Heide was by himself when the slide broke, directly to the north of I-70 on the south face of Mount Trelease. A group of backcountry skiers noticed the slide and tracks going into it but didn’t see any tracks coming out- it was 9:30 a.m. when they called 911.
“The find of the subject originally was by the three civilians as rescue teams were arriving on scene,” said Charley Shimanski with the Alpine Search and Rescue team.
Shimanski said they were able to locate the victim’s cell phone signal and relay the coordinates to the group of skiers.
According to the preliminary report, Heide was wearing an airbag that he had deployed, and when aid arrived, part of it was visible in the avalanche debris but his head was fully buried.
“This is an area that’s very popular with backcountry skiers and it’s important for people to know that on one day, this might be a very safe area to ski in the backcountry or snowboard but on another day, it might not be,” Shimanski continued, “That’s again reinforcing why people need to get the avalanche education and use the Colorado Avalanche Information forecast to know when is that right day to ski this area.”
The CAIC recently posted a video to draw attention to the historically unstable snowpack, referencing 2012 as the last time conditions were so bad.
“This is as unstable a snowpack as we’ve seen in many, many years, and a big reason for that is the ground level snow. There’s weaknesses in the snow layers that are not gonna get better over time throughout the rest of this winter and that’s why the hazard is high and probably will remain high for the rest of the season,” said Shimanski.
Experts say most fatalities occur due to asphyxiation or trauma, which is why having the proper gear isn’t enough.
“Rather than ever discourage people from using the backcountry, which is just an extraordinary experience, really the rescue teams and the avalanche information center want to encourage that avalanche education, knowing what equipment you need to have but most importantly, knowing when it’s safe in the backcountry and when do you wanna avoid the backcountry.”
Clear Creek advocates have been called to help Heide’s family through the loss.
Others on scene to help with the incident, Loveland Ski Patrol, Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Department of Transportation, Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, and the Alpine Rescue Team.