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Avalanche kills backcountry skier near Cameron Pass on Colorado’s Front Range

The Cameron Pass avalanche broke on a layer of snow 1 to 3 feet below the snow surface, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. The slide was about 250 feet wide. (Courtesy Colorado Avalanche Information Center)
Slide occurred in an area with ‘considerable’ risk

A backcountry skier died in an avalanche Friday afternoon near Cameron Pass, bordering Jackson and Larimer counties on Colorado’s Front Range.

The death appeared to be the first reported avalanche fatality of the 2021-22 winter season in Colorado.

The avalanche occurred about 2 p.m. on a northeast-facing slope below treeline on the southeast end of South Diamond Peak, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The skier was swept up and fully buried by the avalanche.

“The victim’s partner located him with a transceiver and probe pole and extricate him from the snow, but he did not survive,” the report stated.

Search and rescue personnel from Jackson County and the Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol recovered the man’s body after dark.

A satellite image looking northwest toward South Diamond Peak and Cameron Pass. The red circle indicates the approximate location of the fatal avalanche Friday, Dec. 24. (Courtesy Colorado Avalanche Information Center)

The avalanche broke on a layer of faceted snow 1 to 3 feet below the snow surface and was about 250 feet wide, said the CAIC report, published Saturday by forecaster Mike Cooperstein. The avalanche crown was on a convex area with a slope angle that rose to about 38 degrees.

The avalanche occurred in an area with “considerable,” or Level 3, risk of avalanches. CAIC rates risk on five levels of danger, from “low” to “extreme.”

An avalanche warning was in effect Friday and Saturday for the southern San Juan Mountains, which includes La Plata County. The area’s risk level was at Level 4, or “high,” this weekend.

CAIC recommended against traveling near or above treeline Saturday in the southern San Juans.

“Below treeline, be ready to change your plans if you see obvious signs of unstable snow, such as fresh avalanches, cracking or collapsing,” CAIC said. “Slopes less than 30 degrees, far from steep slopes above, offer safer travel options.”

The Diamond Peaks is a backcountry ski patrol that operates in the Cameron Pass area, about 65 miles west of Fort Collins on State Highway 14.