The unusual weather conditions this season have created very dangerous snow conditions throughout the West. Six people have already died in avalanches in Colorado this winter, including a member of the Keystone ski patrol died this weekend while skiing with friends near Wolf Creek Pass.
The three friends, all members of the ski patrol, were caught in the slide but two of them were able to dig themselves out. One was unharmed and the other had an injured knee. But they were unable to find their friend in time.
Despite the low snow levels this winter, the base is unstable in many places and any new snow falls on this weak layer. The state has already reached the average number of deaths per season, and there is still a significant portion of the season remaining. Authorities are urging people in Colorado to be extremely cautious.
And a popular ski area in Washington state, Steven’s Pass, became a nightmare for skiers on Sunday as an avalanche was triggered. Thirteen skiers were in the “ski at your own risk” area at Tunnel Creek Canyon Road just outside of Skykomish. Tragically, three were killed in the avalanche. The men were found, CPR was performed, but none of the three could be saved. A fourth skier with the group was equipped with a survival device which provides two airbags that inflate on the back straps from a backpack allowing the wearer to remain on top of the flow.
In another Washington ski area, Alpental ski area at Snoqualmie Pass, a snowboarder died when an avalanche pushed him over a cliff. A witness called in to say he saw someone snowboard over a cliff. The snowboarder was found and also could not be saved after CPR was performed. The young man was in his early 20s. He was off the groomed trails, but reports are unclear as to whether he was out of bounds.
The deadliest avalanche in U.S. history occurred in Wellington, Washington. On March 1st 1910, a loud thunder clap caused snow to break loose from Windy Mountain. The big block of snow knocked trains 150 feet downhill into the Tye River Valley below.
The death toll was estimated at 96 people. Great Northern railroad suffered a loss of 58 employees, 35 were passengers and 3 were railway employees in the train depot. There were 23 survivors who were pulled from the wreckage by railroad employees from Wellington.