Avalanche engulfs three skiers, killing one, near Aspen, Colorado officials say

An avalanche engulfed three skiers outside an Aspen ski area, killing one despite efforts to revive the person, Colorado officials reported.

The avalanche happened about 1 p.m. Sunday, March 19, at Maroon Bowl, a steep northwest-facing slope near the treeline, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said in a news release.

Ski patrols at the nearby Aspen Highlands Ski Area reported the avalanche at 1:27 p.m., the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Because of the avalanche danger, patrols and rescuers could not reach the skiers, the sheriff’s office said.

Rescuers learned around 2:15 p.m. that two skiers had freed themselves but a third remained buried. One of the two surviving skiers told dispatchers that he uncovered the third skier and began performing CPR.

The other surviving skier climbed higher on the mountain and ski patrols used a rope to pull them to safety, the release said.

Helicopters could not land in the area due to the steep slope, the release said. The remaining skier reported stopping CPR at 4:15 p.m.

Helicopters were able to deploy rescuers who confirmed the third skier had died. They helped retrieve the body and the uninjured skier.

The sheriff’s office did not identify the skier who died.

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 19 people in the U.S. have died in avalanches this season as of March 20, 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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