31-year-old man dies in avalanche on Bald Mountain near Breckenridge
The incident marks the 11th avalanche death in Colorado this ski season. As the weather continues to warm and snow rapidly melts, high-elevation areas are becoming less predictable.
A 31-year-old man was killed in an avalanche on Bald Mountain on Saturday, April 29, according to initial reports from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and the Summit County Rescue Group.
The man’s name and hometown have not been released but he is said to be from Colorado, according to the Colorado Sun, which first reported the incident.
In a statement, the rescue group said it was first notified Saturday afternoon by the man’s girlfriend that he was missing. The rescue group was told that the man had left that morning to ski a northeast-facing couloir on Bald Mountain — known locally as “Baldy” — southeast of Breckenridge. His girlfriend said he was not answering calls by the time he was expected to be back at his car, according to the rescue group’s statement.
By that evening, Flight For Life Colorado had responded to a request by the rescue group for an aerial search but, due to impending darkness, was not able to assist beyond locating the avalanche, according to the statement.
Rescue group members skied into the area of the slide debris to do an avalanche transceiver search and found the man just after 11 p.m. He was buried just under 2 feet below the surface of the debris, according to the group’s statement. His body was recovered in the early hours of Sunday morning.
In a preliminary report, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the avalanche was “small but long-running” and that the incident occurred at about 13,000 feet. The center said it would issue a full report this week.
The incident marks the 11th avalanche death in Colorado this ski season, which saw a violent early winter as both natural and human-caused slides reached record levels. According to the information center, 20 people have been caught and 16 have been buried by avalanches this season.
As of Sunday afternoon, all of Summit County was designated as being in moderate avalanche danger — a 2 on a scale of 5 — according to the information center.
“Those chances increase as the day warms,” the information center wrote in an April 30 report. “At upper elevations, you can find isolated areas of drifted snow on slopes that face northeast through east to southwest. You are most likely to trigger an avalanche in drifted snow below steep ridgelines and on the sides of gullies.”
Summit County Rescue Group member and spokesperson Anna DeBattiste said that while Summit County has seen fewer avalanche-related incidents than other parts of the state this season, calls for service are still high.
“I don’t recall seeing an April this busy in quite a few years,” DeBattiste said.
In recent weeks, many of those calls have been related to postholing — when hikers sink into the snow past their knees, to the point where it becomes difficult to move.
As consistent warm weather causes snow to rapidly melt, high-elevation conditions are becoming more and more unpredictable, DeBattiste said. For skiers venturing into backcountry terrain, it is critical to do so earlier in the morning before temperatures rise, she added.
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