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One dead after avalanche in Colorado’s San Juan mountains near Silverton

One dead after avalanche in Colorado’s San Juan mountains near Silverton

Featured Image: Jim Donovan/Flickr Creative Commons

During the final day of a Silverton Avalanche School Level 2 AIARE class on January 5 near Red Mountain Pass, Colorado, six students were caught in an avalanche. According to a preliminary report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), a secondary avalanche was released sympathetically, burying one student under 2.5 meters of snow. The rest of the group was able to extricate the skier, 40-year-old Longmont, CO, resident, Peter Marshall, and attempted revival, but were unsuccessful. He died on site. According to an article published by the Colorado Sun, this is the first student death for the revered avalanche school in its 56 years of operation. It’s also the first avalanche fatality in Colorado this season.

Preliminary report from CAIC:

“A group of backcountry skiers participating in an avalanche safety course triggered an avalanche on the afternoon of January 5. All six members of the group were caught in the avalanche. The avalanche released a second avalanche sympathetically. The second avalanche ran over the debris pile of the first slide. One member of the group was buried in the debris of the two avalanches. The rest of the group located him and extricated him from under at least 2.5 m of snow. They tried to revive him on site, but were unsuccessful. The rest of the group made their way to US 550 with the help of San Juan County Search and Rescue, Ouray Mountain Rescue, La Plata County Search and Rescue, Careflight and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.”

Colorado, in general, is notorious for its touchy intermountain snowpack, and the San Juan Range is perhaps the most dangerous zone in the state. While early season snow blanketed the southern Colorado range, an extended dry spell followed, and significant snowfall to start this week created very high avalanche danger. According to the CAIC, in the Northern San Juans alone, there have been 19 avalanche reports—at least five of which were triggered by backcountry travelers–in the first week of 2019.

Our thoughts are extended to the family of the victim at this time.

For the full avalanche report from CAIC, click here.

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