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Avalanche kills skier in popular backcountry area east of Vail

Forecasters continue to warn of high avalanche danger in Vail and Summit County after heavy snowfall.

An avalanche in East Vail's backcountry terrain killed a man in 2014. A skier was buried in the zone on Thursday. (Provided by Colorado Avalanche Information Center)
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A skier died in an avalanche in East Vail around noon on Thursday. Rescuers were able to extricate the skier and perform CPR as Vail Mountain Rescue Group and Vail Ski Patrol responded to move the skier to waiting medics. 

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office reported around 5 p.m. on Thursday that the skier, who was not identified, did not survive.  

The slide in the popular backcountry zone easily accessed from Vail ski area occurred in the eastern portion of Abraham’s Bowl, which is also known as Marvin’s.

Vail ski area reported 13 inches of new snow on Thursday, with most of it falling overnight. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s forecast for Vail and Summit County on Thursday ranked the avalanche hazard at and above treeline as “high,” with “very dangerous avalanche conditions.” The forecasts warned that wind-drifted, above-treeline slopes facing north were “the most likely places to trigger a large and deadly avalanche.”

“Avoid traveling in or around avalanche terrain today,” reads the report. “Large, wide and deadly avalanches will be very easy to trigger.”

MORE: Colorado plans to ramp up messaging after avalanches kill three experienced skiers in two days

East Vail is a very popular backcountry skiing destination accessed via a short hike from Vail ski area’s Siberia Bowl. It’s also a common location for avalanches. 

At least eight skiers have died in avalanches in the steep, north-facing terrain that spills into both East Vail and Interstate 70. The most recent was in January 2014, when an avalanche swept four skiers down a slope known as “Nothing But Air,” killing Tony Seibert, the grandson of the founder of Vail ski area. In January 2008, two men were killed in separate avalanches. Four men were killed in East Vail avalanches in the 1990s and one skier was buried and killed in 1986.

Three Eagle County skiers were killed on Monday in a massive avalanche on South Lookout Peak near Ophir Pass. The death of the East Vail skier on Thursday raised the grim count of avalanche fatalities for the 2020-21 season to eight, mirroring the final avalanche fatality tally of 2018-19, 2013-14 and 2008-09. But the 2020-21 backcountry season has really only begun, with the busy months of February, March and April left.


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