JACKSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Avalanche officials in Colorado say a backcountry skier died after he was fully buried in an avalanche on Christmas Eve. They say it happened on a northeast-facing slope below tree line on South Diamond Peak near Cameron Pass.
“The avalanche broke on a layer of faceted snow one to three below the snow surface, and was about 250 feet wide. The avalanche crown was on a convex roll where the slope angle steepened to about 38 degrees,” stated the Colorado Avalanche Information Center on its website.
They say a friend found the skier with a transceiver and probe pole. The friend pulled the skier from the snow, but he tragically did not survive.
Rescue crews from Jackson County and the Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol recovered his body after dark.
“Our deepest condolences go out to the friends and family and everyone affected by this tragic accident,” CAIC stated.
The threat for avalanches is considered high, a Level 4 out of 5, across much of Colorado. Ethan Greene, director of the CAIC, said the current dangerous conditions are due to a combination of new snow piling on a weak bottom layer.
“When you put a lot of weight on the snowpack in a short amount of time, it has a hard time adjusting for that and breaks and produces avalanches,” Greene said.
It’s a situation that may even get worse with several snowstorms in the forecast, he said.
“Every time we get a storm that loads that up, the avalanche danger is going to go up,” Greene said. “If we get some calm periods it will drop back down, but it will probably just have lurking avalanche danger at that point.”
Twelve people were in Colorado during 2020-2021 avalanche season, which was double the 10-year average. While Greene says the conditions this year are similar, the end result doesn’t have to be.
“Check the avalanche forecast and get current conditions so they know what’s happening today and they can make sure they can match their recreational goals with those current conditions,” he said.
In addition to checking the conditions, Greene said it’s also important to have proper equipment like a receiver and shovel. On top of that, it’s best to stay on low angle terrain.