A 67-year-old doctor and longtime resident of Ophir died Monday in an avalanche near his hometown, which is nestled in the San Juan Mountains south of Telluride.
The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office identified the person as Peter Harrelson, who for years worked as a family physician, according to multiple websites.
It is the first recorded avalanche death so far this season in Colorado, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
Harrelson set out on a backcountry trip about noon Monday in the Waterfall Creek area south of Ophir, said Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Susan Lilly.
Law enforcement was notified at 7:40 p.m. that Harrelson had not returned from his outing, which set off a search and rescue effort.
The search extended into the night without locating the man. Rescuers resumed their search Tuesday morning with snowmobiles, air resources and ground crews.
Lilly said Harrelson’s body was found soon after a helicopter was launched.
Rescue workers were in the process of bringing the man down as of 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Lilly asked people to avoid the area, largely because of the dangerous avalanche conditions.
The avalanche occurred on a northwest aspect below tree line, where the avalanche danger was listed as “moderate,” according to a preliminary report by the CAIC.
The San Miguel Sheriff’s Office initially reported it was a skier who became trapped, but the CAIC later clarified it was a snowboarder.
The Sheriff’s Office expressed its condolences to the Harrelson’s family and friends. It also expressed its appreciation to the search and rescue members who risked their lives searching for the skier.
“Our team trains for this kind of thing, and it’s always difficult when there’s not a good outcome and the patient is deceased,” Lilly said.