An avalanche buried and killed a man backcountry skiing near Aspen on Monday morning. The second Colorado avalanche death of the season came amid heightened risk of snow slides across the state.
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office says it was notified about 10:30 a.m. of the avalanche in the Express Creek drainage south of Aspen. The slide happened near the Markley Hut, which is associated with 10th Mountain Division Hut Association in an area that frequently sees avalanches.
“The initial report indicated that the skier was among a group of six that included some family and friends,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. “The report also indicated that the buried skier had been extricated from the slide and that CPR was in progress. Mountain Rescue Aspen was deployed into the field to conduct a rescue mission.”
The rescue mission, however, quickly turned into a recovery operation, authorities said. The man’s name has not been released.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center says preliminary reports indicate that the avalanche was about 400 feet wide and spanned some 200 vertical feet.
Monday’s avalanche death was preceded by a slide earlier this month in southwest Colorado that left 40-year-old Peter Marshall, of Longmont, dead. Marshall was among six students of an advanced avalanche-safety class in the San Juan Mountains’ Senator Beck Basin, northwest of Red Mountain Pass near Silverton, who were caught in the slide.
Marshall was participating in Silverton Avalanche School’s three-day, Level 2 avalanche class when he was killed. His death is the first for the respected avalanche school, which formed in 1962.
Also, two men with Colorado connections were killed in an in-bounds avalanche at New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley last week. Matthew Zonghetti, a 26-year-old who had recently moved to Denver, and 22-year-old Corey Borg-Massanari, a Pueblo native who was attending school in Vail, died in that slide, according to KOAT-TV.
Heading into 2019, number of U.S. avalanche deaths had been down over the past 10 years more than 8 percent compared with the previous 10-year span. That included Colorado, which up until this season had seen only 11 avalanche fatalities in the past four years before 2019 — the fewest in any four-year stretch since the late 1970’s.
Avalanche danger, however, is high throughout much of Colorado and the western U.S. right now following recent storms and amid more expected snowfall this week.
In the area around Aspen on Monday, for instance, the state’s avalanche information center was warning that “backcountry travelers can easily trigger very large and deadly avalanches.”
The CAIC says since Jan. 11 it has documented 10 people caught in avalanches in the state, including 44 avalanches triggered by backcountry travelers, and over 280 avalanches in total.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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