JACKSON COUNTY, Colorado (CBS4) The search for a missing snowmobile driver buried in an avalanche in the Never Summer Range became tragic on Wednesday night. The Colorado Avlanche Information Center reports that one in two snowmobilers has died. The second was partially buried and unharmed.
The search for the missing snowmobiler continued for a second day on Wednesday. Crews from Jackson County Search and Rescue, Grand County Search and Rescue, and the CAIC participated in the effort.
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It is not clear whether the crews reached the body.
On Tuesday February 16, two snowmobilers were caught in an avalanche southeast of Rand, CO. One driver was partially buried and not injured. One driver was completely buried and killed. The preliminary report can be found at https://t.co/A1HJHsLeCR pic.twitter.com/kFT3bdv5mb
– CAIC: Nationwide information (@COAvalancheInfo) February 18, 2021
“We don’t have all of the information for this particular case. It sounds like some of the people in the group have beacons, but the person who was buried didn’t,” said Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
The avalanche occurred Tuesday on Ruby Mountain in the Never Summer area southeast of Rand. Since the snowmobile driver went missing on Wednesday, details of the accident were still being investigated.
According to a preliminary report, the group tirelessly searched for the missing snowmobile driver before calling 911. Search and rescue workers arrived on the site on Tuesday evening, but could not find the missing man. The search continued on Wednesday morning.
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The terrain on Ruby Mountain where the avalanche started has been described as a large, steep, northeast-facing bowl over 11,000 feet. The exact type of terrain that the CAIC avalanche forecast warns is warning backcountry users to avoid it. The CAIC report states: “Early reports describe the drivers who drive over the slope more than once before the avalanche.”
“There are very difficult avalanche conditions. They can trigger avalanches from low angles, the avalanches break very far, they run on the usual routes that people take their sleds and go into the mountains, ”continued Greene, usually regrouping and feeling safe. So this year you really need to adapt what you do to these conditions. “
In 2019, Colorado had a historic 100-year avalanche event, but only 6 deaths.
“We die an average of six people a year and are already well above the average. We’re aiming for a record for the season. We could be heading for a record this month. These are all records we don’t want to break and it’s really heartbreaking and scary to get this close to them, especially when there’s so much winter left, “said Greene.
According to Greene, the avalanches of 2019 were events of 100 to 200 years ago, but this year cannot be missed.
“These avalanches are much smaller, but from a person’s point of view they are easy to trigger. You can trigger them from a great distance and they spread over a very wide area and they often run through terrain features, ”continued Greene, or a stand of trees, in which case the fractures run through those terrain features into the nearest bowl. “
Greene urges backcountry users to check the avalanche forecast, learn about snowpack, and stay away from slopes above 30 degrees for the time being.
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“There are many factors that contribute to where we are now. You know, to get avalanche accidents we need the ability to trigger avalanches and we need people out there who are off-road recreation and avalanche exposure, and we have a lot of both this year, “Greene said.