Backcountry skier dies in avalanche at the East Vail Chutes

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Posted at 5:05 PM, Feb 04, 2021

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — A backcountry skier died after being caught in and avalanche at the East Vail Chutes, according to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office.

The avalanche happened around 12 p.m. Thursday in the backcountry outside of Vail Mountain's boundaries. The backcountry avalanche forecast for Eagle County is rated as considerable, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). There are currently multiple Avalanche Watches and Warnings.

According to the preliminary CAIC report, the skier exited the Vail Ski Area through a backcountry access gate. The avalanche occurred while the skier was in an area known as Marvin's on an east-facing slope below treeline. Rescuers estimated the avalanche as 700 feet wide, and it ran 1,000 vertical feet.

Companions and other riders found the skier and performed resuscitation efforts, but were unsuccessful.

Vail Mountain Rescue Group and Vail Ski Patrol responded to the scene and recovered the skier, according to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office.

“This is a very unfortunate accident and our thoughts are with the victim's friends and family,” Sheriff Van Beek said.

The Eagle County Coroner's Office will identify the victim after notifying next of kin.

The sheriff's office said it's extremely important for backcountry travelers to take time to analyze the layers of snowpack and test their stability, especially on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees.

Just Monday three Eagle County government officials died backcountry skiing after a large avalanche was triggered in the San Juan Mountains between Silverton and Ophir. They've been identified as Seth Bossung, energy efficiency project manager for Eagle County; Andy Jessen, Mayor Pro Tem for the Town of Eagle; and Adam Palmer, sustainable communities director for Eagle County.

Thursday's accident marks the eighth avalanche-related death during the 2020-2021 season.