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Backcountry skier caught, killed in avalanche near Breckenridge

31-year-old man from Colorado is 11th avalanche death this season
A skier was caught, buried and died in a small but long-running avalanche Saturday on Bald Mountain, southeast of Breckenridge. (Courtesy of Colorado Avalanche Information Center)

A backcountry skier was killed over the weekend in an avalanche near Breckenridge, according to a preliminary report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The skier was alone Saturday and caught in a “small, but long-running avalanche” on Bald Mountain, which is southeast of Breckenridge, the report says. Members from the CAIC were on-site Sunday.

A spokesperson for the Summit County Rescue Group said Sunday afternoon the person killed was a 31-year-old man from Colorado, but did not know his hometown. His name has not been released.

CAIC estimates the avalanche happened at about 13,000 feet; the summit of Bald Mountain is 13,690 feet.

The man was reported missing by his girlfriend Saturday when he did not respond to phone calls after his planned return. A Flight for Life helicopter did an aerial search and spotted the slide but did not see any tracks going in or out of the avalanche, according to a Summit County Rescue Group news release.

“Conditions in the area were windy and therefore any tracks could have been covered up at that point,” the rescue group said.

Two members of the organization skied to the debris to do an avalanche transceiver search and found the man just after 11 p.m. via transceiver signal. He was covered in about 20 inches of snow.

This marks the 11th avalanche death in the 2022-23 season, and first since March 19 when a skier was killed near Aspen Highlands resort. Seven people were killed in avalanches last winter, and 12 people died in the 2020-21 season.

The state agency also said it was raising the avalanche danger to moderate for Sunday in the high country after “a poor overnight freeze and dust beginning to resurface.”

CAIC officials posted Sunday that backcountry skiers and snowboarders should start and end the day early and to “expect these wet snow concerns to escalate over the next few days.”

“At low elevations, the frozen crusts in the upper snowpack that will initially provide supportive travel conditions will begin to wet and lose strength,” CAIC said Sunday morning. “This is most concerning on the Western Slope, where overnight lows stayed above freezing in many locations. In the afternoon, the ‘trap doors’ will begin to open, making over-snow travel punchy and difficult, raising the concern for wet avalanches that gouge deeper into the snowpack.”

The agency said a snowboarder on Quandary Peak, which is also south of Breckenridge, triggered a similar style avalanche also on Saturday and survived.

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