Vail resident Gary Smith killed in backcountry avalanche near Beaver Creek Resort |

Vail resident Gary Smith killed in backcountry avalanche near Beaver Creek Resort

John LaConte
Vail Daily
Gary Allen Smith is remembered as a backcountry adventurer who loved winter.
Photo from Instagram


EAGLE — Gary Allen Smith, 37, was caught and killed in an avalanche in the backcountry near Beaver Creek Resort on Monday, the Eagle County coroner has confirmed.

The avalanche occurred in an area known as the Sanctuary Chute, below treeline in steep, northwest-facing terrain at an elevation of about 10,500 feet near the Lime Creek drainage. Smith was trapped in the slide and his skiing companion was able to locate him, dig him out and call for help, but Smith did not survive.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center filed an initial report on Monday and will file a follow-up report.

The fatality is the 35th avalanche death in the U.S. this season and the 12th in Colorado, making it the deadliest avalanche season since the 1992-93 season in Colorado, when 12 people also died.

Smith was a well-known backcountry skier who worked at a backcountry shop and was a gear editor at The website describes him as an “obsessive tinkerer and modifier of his gear, rarely satisfied with stock options and always looking for improvement.”

Smith is a former ski patroller who began backcountry touring after an injury. Before moving to the Vail area, he lived in Taos, New Mexico.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the backcountry avalanche forecast in Eagle County has been consistently rated as considerable this season. This means that there are dangerous avalanche conditions and that cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making is essential. It is extremely important for backcountry travelers (especially on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees) to take the time to analyze the layers of the snowpack and test their stability, according to the avalanche center.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, Beaver Creek Ski Patrol, Eagle County Coroner’s Office, Eagle County Paramedic Services, Strawberry Park Medical and the Vail Public Safety Communication Center worked collaboratively on the incident.

The avalanche area near Lime Creek drainage is pictured south of Edwards.
Photo from Colorado Avalanche Information Center

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