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1 dead in Gunnison County avalanche

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Posted at 10:00 AM, Feb 26, 2022

DENVER — The body of a 27-year-old man was located after the backcountry hiker went missing during an avalanche in Gunnison County Friday afternoon.

Search teams found the man's body near Marble in Gunnison County Saturday. His body along with two dogs was completely buried in snow. He was identified as Nathaniel "Nate" Ethan Schmidt of Colorado Springs.

Schmidt was snowshoeing with three other people when the avalanche occurred near Beaver Lake in the Yule Creek drainage area, according to a news release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, which provided mutual aid in the rescue attempt.

A witness in the group told rescue crews that an avalanche had slid from the area they were hiking in, and one friend could not be located. Two people from the group were partially buried but were able to dig themselves out of the snow.

The avalanche was approximately 50 feet wide and ran 250 feet vertically. The face of the crown was 1 to 2 feet deep, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. The location of the avalanche was identified as was the last known location of the missing party, the release states.

Due to the area's unstable conditions and time of day, search efforts were limited to areas that could be safely examined. The search was called off around 9 p.m. Friday, but crews returned to the area Saturday and located Schmidt's body that afternoon.

Authorities are reminding backcountry travelers of the dangers of avalanches. Travelers who are in undeveloped ski areas should travel with a transceiver, a shovel and a probe.

Schmidt's family said the 27-year-old was an Eagle Scout and experienced and skilled outdoorsman. A memorial service is planned this Saturday in Colorado Springs.