Avalanche engulfs three, killing one skier, in Colorado backcountry, authorities say
An avalanche engulfed three people near Marble, killing one, Colorado officials report.
The Friday, March 17, avalanche caught two skiers and a splitboarder touring the backcountry near Rapid Creek, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said.
A splitboard is a snowboard that separates in two for climbing hills or touring, according to Nonstop.
The avalanche buried one skier and injured the other two, one of whom hiked out to seek help, the center said. A helicopter evacuated the second skier.
On Saturday, March 18, searchers found the missing skier buried in 4 feet of snow and avalanche debris, the center said.
The 300- to 500-foot wide avalanche spilled 2,400 vertical feet, according to the center.
Marble is a community of 180 people about 200 miles southwest of Denver.
What to know about avalanches
Avalanches happen quickly and catch people by surprise. They can move between 60 and 80 mph and typically happen on slopes of 30-45 degrees, according to experts.
Skiers, snowmobilers and hikers can set off an avalanche when a layer of snow collapses and starts to slide down the slope.
In the U.S., avalanches are most common from December to April, but they can happen at any time if the conditions are right, National Geographic reported.
At least 18 people in the U.S. have died in avalanches this season as of March 19, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
People heading into snow should always check the local avalanche forecast at Avalanche.org, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, and have an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel ready.
“Emergency services are usually too far away from the scene of an avalanche, and time is important,” Simon Trautman, a national avalanche specialist, said. “A person trapped under the snow may not have more than 20 or 30 minutes. So, in a backcountry scenario, you are your own rescue party.”
If an avalanche breaks out, it’s best to move diagonal to the avalanche to an edge, Trautman said.
“Try to orient your feet downhill so that your lower body, not your head, takes most of the impact,” officials said. “You may also get into a tight ball as another way to protect your head.”
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