Two dead in avalanche near Vail on Muddy Pass
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported on Sunday that the bodies of two timbersledders buried in an avalanche have been recovered.
According to the CAIC’s preliminary report, the avalanche occurred at about 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“Three motorized snowbike riders were caught in an avalanche east of Red and White Mountain in Eagle County on Saturday, February 15, 2020. One rider was partially buried and was able to extricate himself and go for help. The avalanche carried the other two riders into a gully in the drainage bottom,” according to the report. “Avalanche debris piled up deeply and they were fully buried and killed. Search and Rescue volunteers recovered the bodies on February 16. The avalanche occurred on a northeast-facing below treeline slope, around 9800 feet in elevation. It was about 650 feet wide and ran about 120 vertical feet. The avalanche initiated in the old snow layers about three feet below the snow surface. It stepped down to a weak layer near the ground, about five feet deep.”
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said they received the call about the incident at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, and several agencies worked collaboratively to retrieve the bodies.
Vail local Hunter Schleper was in the area on Saturday and helped to try to locate the riders. In a Facebook post, Schleper described the incident:
“As our group of 6 were heading back to the trucks, we were notified by a group of riders that a couple of timbersledders were buried in an avalanche,” Schleper posted on Sunday. “We all rushed as quickly as we could to help assist in locating the guys. Between 10 of us, we each dug and dug for hours. The riders were buried so deep that none of our probes could reach them. We finally located each of the riders at a depth of around 20 feet. It was clear that there was no chance of survival from early on. Everyone involved in the search executed the quickest recovery we could, but after 5 hours of digging and uncovering the riders, Vail Mountain Rescue finally arrived and we were immediately told to suspend the recovery. They felt it was too late into the evening and we were still in avalanche danger. We all made it out of the woods around 9 p.m., hearts heavy. We want to thank our friends and other riders who worked alongside us no questions asked to get the buried riders out. We extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families.”
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Department warned backcountry travelers, especially people recreating on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees, to take the time to analyze snowpack layers and test their stability. The slope angle on the face that slid Saturday was about 37 degrees, according to CAIC’s report.
“Cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making is essential,” the Sheriff’s Department wrote.
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