PITKIN COUNTY, CO — One man is dead after he was caught in an avalanche near the Markley Hut in the Express Creek drainage south of Aspen, according to a release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Early reports indicated that the man was traveling with a group of six skiers that included family and friends. The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office first received a report of the slide at 10:20 a.m. on Jan. 21.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the original group was able to extricate the man from the avalanche debris, however attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. His name is being withheld upon notification of next of kin.
Preliminary investigation by the CAIC has identified the cause of the slide as an unintentional release that occurred on a north-northeast facing slope at about 11,200 feet. The avalanche broke at about two feet deep, 500 feet wide, and ran about 600 vertical feet.
Mountain Rescue Aspen received word of the incident while CPR efforts were in progress and deployed a 26-member rescue mission, which quickly turned into a recovery operation for the deceased skier, according to the sheriff’s report. Rescuers were hampered by weather and local avalanche conditions, but all members of the ski group and all rescuers were safely out of the field by 3:17 p.m. The incident was officially terminated at 4:00 p.m. when rescuers had all safely returned to the Cameron Rescue Center in Aspen.
Our office has been notified of an avalanche outside Aspen, in the area of the Markley Hut. The slide caught one individual & has claimed the life of that individual. Deputies & @MtnRescueAspen are making a plan now. Updates will be available as we learn more information. pic.twitter.com/pbFF3Tg1Fd
— Pitkin Co. Sheriff (@PitkinSheriff) January 21, 2019
The remaining members of the skiing group were transported out of the area by rescuers and were put in contact with the Aspen Hope Center for grief counseling services.
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office stressed to the public the inherent dangers and risks associated with travel and recreation in the backcountry this time of year.
“Backcountry travelers can easily trigger very large and deadly avalanches,” the CAIC said. “Avalanches may break across terrain features and run long distances. Since Jan. 11, the CAIC has documented 10 people caught in avalanches, 44 avalanches triggered by backcountry travelers, and over 280 avalanches in total. Backcountry travel this weekend will require conservative decision making, cautious route finding, and careful snowpack and terrain evaluation.”
Information on current avalanche dangers and conditions can be found at the CAIC website. This is the second Colorado avalanche death in January after a Longmont man was killed in a Jan. 5 slide near Red Mountain Pass.
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