Skiers unable to save companion found buried in avalanche, Colorado officials say

An avalanche in the Anthracite Range buried and killed a backcountry skier despite efforts by his companions to rescue him, Colorado officials reported.

The avalanche took place around 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11, in an area known as the Playground east of Ohio Peak, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said.

It caught and buried the backcountry skier, the center said. His companions rushed to find him and dig him out of the avalanche debris, but he died of his injuries.

Investigators were scheduled to visit the site Monday, Feb. 12, to collect more information.

The avalanche happened near the town of Crested Butte, which is about 120 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 seven people in the U.S. have died in avalanches this season as of Feb. 12, 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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