Avalanches kill two snowmobilers in Montana, one skier in Colorado

Several recreational forests and ski resorts in Montana and Colorado were haunted by avalanches on New Year’s Eve, threatening the visitors.

In Gallatin National Forest, south-west Montana, two snowmobilers were killed in an avalanche on Saturday, December 31. The victims were two brothers, ages: 21 years old and 17 years old, respectively.

According to the reports from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center (GNFAC), the two riders headed uphill near Daisy Pass north of Cooke City. The older brother climbed a steeper slope and triggered an avalanche. He was swept for about 600 vertical feet or 183 vertical meters.

The older brother was buried in five feet of snow. He was found wearing an avalanche airbag backpack, but it was not deployed. Both riders had shovels and probes but were not wearing an avalanche beacons.

According to the reports, a nearby group of riders climbed up the slope minutes after the avalanche and saw a buried snowmobile. They started searching for the missing riders while one person of their group went to Cooke City to alert search and rescue. The avalanche was around two to four feet deep, 500 feet wide and 600 feet long.

They located the riders with a probe line about an hour after the avalanche. However, they were unable to be revived with CPR and AED. The officials have not yet officially published their identities.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends, and those involved,” the GNFAC representative said in a statement.

Previously, two researchers from GNFAC also had a close encounter with an avalanche on Fisher Mountain near Cooke City in early December last year.

Director of GNFAC Doug Chabot said the researchers rode snowmobiles to the mountain to dig some snow pits. One arrived first, and when the other researcher was on his way, he triggered the avalanche from below. The report stated that the researcher who triggered the avalanche was below the slope.

The first researcher was safe and called for help before rushing down the mountain to assist his colleague. The two escaped the avalanche uninjured.

“December and January can be quite bad for avalanches in Montana. And the reason for that is, is we’re forming many weak layers in the snowpack right now,” Chabot said.

Avalanche strikes two skiers, one killed

Meanwhile in Colorado, two men were skiing when they were also caught in an avalanche at around 1 p.m. near the Breckenridge Ski Resort. The officials identified the two as father and son.

According to the Summit County Rescue Group (SCRG), the avalanche occurred in an area known as the Numbers. It is an area outside the Breckenridge Ski Resort boundary on Peak 10. The officials said the area is a place where people commonly leave the ski area and relax in the backcountry.

Based on the report, the father was partially buried, but his son was completely buried in the snow. The former was able to dig himself out and went out of the area to call 911 at around 1:40 p.m. The SCRG responded to a call about the avalanche after 2 p.m.

23 SCRG members responded to the call. Three Special Operations Unit members of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) and Breckenridge Ski Resort ski patrol were also dispatched in a search and rescue effort. SCRG reportedly stated they formed a probe line to locate the son.

About two hours later, a team with a search dog found the son at around 3:11 p.m. He was transported to Breckenridge Mountain Clinic but did not survive. The SCSO Special Operations team remained at the scene and conducted an investigation. Currently, the officials have not released the son’s name.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center completed the investigation on January 1, 2023. They stated that this incident marked the second and third avalanche fatalities this winter.