Search and rescue teams on Wednesday used an avalanche-search dog to find the body of a snowmobiler buried in a large slide in the Never Summer Mountains of northern Colorado.
His death brings the total number of people killed in avalanches in Colorado so far this season to 11, equal to the number who died in the 2012-13 season, the deadliest on record.
The man was with five other snowmobilers near Ruby Mountain, southeast of Rand, on Tuesday afternoon when an avalanche broke near treeline on a northeast-facing slope, sweeping two of the riders in the group. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported that one man was partially buried, sitting upright on his snowmobile.
The second man, who was standing on a steep slope away from his snowmobile, was swept in the slide and buried. The avalanche center said he was not wearing an avalanche transceiver.
Search and rescue crews arrived a few hours after the accident, but were unable to find the man. On Wednesday, they brought in the search dog and his body was recovered.
According to CAIC, the avalanche broke on a weak layer about 3 feet below the surface. It was about three-quarters of a mile wide and ran about 400 vertical feet.
Avalanche forecasters continue to warn that weak snowpack has created considerable danger in Colorado’s backcountry, especially on east-facing slopes. The CAIC said it recorded 201 avalanches in the Front Range forecast zone, which includes the Never Summer mountains, from Dec. 1 through Feb.13, 81 of which were on an east-facing slope that was either near or above treeline.
Including the man who died near Rand, large slides on east-facing slopes now have killed three backcountry travelers in the past week in the Front Range zone.
CAIC investigators on Wednesday released their final report on the Mount Trelease slide that killed a snowboarder touring alone north of Loveland Pass. The snowboarder was not wearing an avalanche transceiver and the report details the frantic search for the man by strangers directed by search and rescue teams using his cell phone signal to locate where he was buried Sunday morning.
The report, which provides details intended to help other backcountry travelers reduce their risk, noted that the man had managed to deploy his avalanche chute, but had not used a leg loop designed to keep the pack in place.