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Eagle County man died after being swept off cliff near Beaver Creek, final avalanche report says

Gary Smith and a partner were skiing on a steep slope in the backcountry near Beaver Creek Resort on March 22 when the avalanche occurred

Sanctuary Chute, just outside the Beaver Creek boundary. (Stock photo provided by CAIC)

A final report by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center has revealed that a man who died after being caught in a small avalanche in Colorado last month was swept over a 75-foot (23-meter) cliff.

Eagle County resident Gary Smith and a partner were skiing on a steep slope in the backcountry near Beaver Creek Resort on March 22 when the avalanche occurred, the Summit Daily News reported Wednesday.

Gary Smith transitions back to skins for another ski lap in the San Juan Mountains on April 30, 2017, near Ophir, CO. (Hugh Carey, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Skiers often access the area by leaving the resort from the top of the Larkspur Express Chairlift. The report said the ski area boundary is “permanently closed” in that location.

The report said Smith took four to five turns before dropping out of view of his partner, who saw a “powder cloud” and believed there was an avalanche. The partner then located Smith fully buried under about 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow and called 911.

Officials said that the avalanche danger was low below treeline, near where they were skiing. The report described snowpack, which was up to 50 inches (1.3 meters) deep, as “thin and weak.”

Summit Daily News reported that Smith was the fifth Eagle County resident to die in an avalanche this season.

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