“Someone was in the backcountry and got caught in an avalanche,” a dispatcher said Wednesday morning, when the search resumed.
Backcountry skiing is done on unmarked and usually unpatrolled areas inside or just outside a resort’s groomed runs. This has been a particularly dangerous winter, with 58 people known to have been caught in avalanches through the end of January, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Two people were killed, Brian Lazar, deputy director of the center, told the Denver Post. By the same time last year, 13 people had been caught; during the winter of 2016-17 37 people were caught by the end of January.
Over the weekend, two Aspen-area skiers died in an avalanche near Crested Butte, police there said Sunday. Owen Green, 27, of Aspen, and Michael Goerne, 37, of Carbondale, were training for the Grand Traverse, a 40-mile backcountry ski race across the Elk Mountains, friends said Sunday. “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 (via the Aspen Times). “Shortly after midnight, it was determined conditions were too adverse to conduct a recovery operation.” In January, Aspen skier Arin Trook, 48, died in a backcountry avalanche near Ashcroft.
The center notes on its website that “Over the last 10 years, February is the single most dangerous month for avalanches in Colorado. Over a quarter of the fatal avalanche accidents happened during this month. In the past decade, there have been 15 fatal avalanche accidents in the month of February. Eight of those accidents occurred in the middle of the month, and four between Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day. Historically, this weekend has been a dangerous period for avalanche accidents. We would like to break the pattern.”