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Skier killed in East Vail avalanche identified as longtime local John Kuo

John Kuo, known as "Johnny Tsunami," regularly skied the easy-to-access East Vail zone beyond the boundary of the Vail ski area.

An avalanche in East Vail's Abraham's Bowl in an area known as Marvin's killed John Kuo on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (Provided by Vail Ski Patrol)

The Eagle County Coroner’s Office identified the skier killed in Thursday’s avalanche in East Vail as John Kuo, a longtime Vail local and gifted skier known among friends as “Johnny Tsunami.”

Kuo skied East Vail often and left the backcountry access gate atop Vail’s Siberia Bowl midday Thursday. The avalanche on the eastern flank of Abraham’s Bowl — an area known as Marvin’s — buried Kuo. He was extricated by nearby skiers who performed CPR in an effort to revive the 41-year-old as Vail Ski Patrol and Vail Mountain Rescue Group responded. 

Vail ski area reported 13 inches of new snow Thursday morning and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center warned of “high” avalanche danger in zones like East Vail, which is north-facing with a portion of its steep terrain above treeline. 

Kuo’s death is the eighth avalanche fatality of the 2020-21 season, nearing the ugly record set in the 2012-13 season, when five men were killed in a single slide near Loveland Pass on April 20, 2013. 

MORE: The average age of fatal avalanche victims is on the rise

This week has been dark for the Colorado backcountry community, especially in Eagle County. Three beloved Eagle locals were killed in a slide Monday in southern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains near Ophir Pass, the second deadliest avalanche in the state in nearly 60 years.

East Vail is one of Colorado’s most heavily trafficked, resort-accessible backcountry zones. The north-facing, steep slopes of open and heavily treed terrain funnel down to Interstate 70. 

At least eight skiers have been killed in avalanches in East Vail, most recently in 2014, when a young man was swept to his death in an avalanche chute known as “Nothing But Air.”

A Colorado Avalanche Information Center avalanche warning remained in effect through Friday, warning that new snow and wind were overloading a fragile layer buried deep in the snowpack. 

“Large, wide, and deadly avalanches will be very easy to trigger. Natural avalanches can run long distances. Backcountry travelers should stay off of, and out from underneath slopes steeper than 30 degrees,” reads the warning.

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