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Vail man killed in backcountry avalanche near Beaver Creek Resort

The avalanche area near Lime Creek drainage south of Edwards. Photo from Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Gary Allen Smith, 37, was caught and killed in an avalanche in the backcountry near Beaver Creek Resort on Monday, the Eagle County Coroner has confirmed.

The avalanche occurred in an area known as the Sanctuary Chute, below treeline in steep northwest-facing terrain at an elevation of around 10,500 feet near the Lime Creek drainage. Smith was trapped in the slide and his skiing companion was able to locate him, dig him out and call for help, but Smith did not survive.

Gary Smith in the Tetons. The 37-year-old skier is remembered as a backcountry adventurer who loved winter. Photo by Cal Orlowski.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center filed an initial report on Monday and will file a follow-up report.



The fatality is the 35th avalanche death in the U.S. this season and the 12th in Colorado, making it the deadliest avalanche season since the 1992-93 season in Colorado, when 12 people also died.

Smith was a well-known local backcountry skier who worked at a backcountry shop and was a gear editor at wildsnow.com. The website describes him as an “obsessive tinkerer and modifier of his gear, rarely satisfied with stock options and always looking for improvement.”



Gary Smith in Alaska. Photo by Cal Orlowski.

Smith is a former ski patroller who began backcountry touring after an injury. Before moving to the Vail area he lived in Taos, New Mexico.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the backcountry avalanche forecast in Eagle County has been consistently rated as considerable this season. This means that there are dangerous avalanche conditions and that cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making is essential. It is extremely important for the backcountry traveler (especially on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees) to take the time to analyze the layers of the snowpack and test their stability.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, Beaver Creek Ski Patrol, Eagle County Coroner’s Office, Eagle County Paramedic Services, Strawberry Park Medical, and the Vail Public Safety Communication Center worked collaboratively on this incident.


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