Last Thursday a backcountry avalanche which killed a skier and injured another was “human” caused, triggered by skiers above the two men who were swept down the mountain, investigators have announced. The avalanche on Thursday claimed the life of a Colorado skier who died of multiple traumatic injuries suffered after “being caught in an avalanche and hitting a tree.” The coroner’s office is ruling his death “accidental.”
The surviving victim of the avalanche was flown by helicopter to Montrose Memorial Hospital with a dislocated hip. He was uncovered from about two feet of snow. The other skiers were from Colorado Springs, Buena Vista and Salida.
The avalanche happened about 3 p.m. on Cirque Mountain, in the San Juan Mountain Range, in rugged, remote country about eight miles southwest of Ridgway. A party of seven skiers were using a “hut system” in the Uncompahgre National Forest and were skiing at an elevation of about 11,500 feet when the avalanche occurred.
A member of the ski party called 911 for help and although the connection was spotty the sheriff’s office was able to determine the location and rescuers reached the area with the help of three private helicopters.
Avalanche danger in the area Thursday was rated “orange,” according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. An orange rating indicates that the chance of an avalanche is “considerable.” Weather and snowfall patterns this winter have increased the danger of avalanches compared to the past few years. This past week there have been at least five reports of avalanches in the area near Thursday’s avalanche.