Backcountry skier killed in avalanche near Cameron Pass Christmas Eve, CAIC officials say

south diamon peak avalanche fatality_1.jpg
Posted at 10:48 AM, Dec 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-25 13:42:56-05

DENVER – A backcountry skier was killed in an avalanche near Cameron Pass Christmas Eve, according to officials with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).

The skier, who was only identified as a man, was caught and buried on the southeast end of South Diamond Peak near Cameron Pass in the Front Range Zone sometime on Dec. 24, according to the CAIC website.

south diamon peak avalanche fatality.jpg

The avalanche broke on a layer of faceted snow one to three below the snow surface, and was about 250 feet wide, officials wrote in their report about the incident.

The victim's partner was able to locate him with a transceiver and probe pole and extricate him from the snow, but he did not survive, CAIC officials said. Search and Rescue personnel from Jackson County and the Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol recovered the victim's body after dark.

CAIC forecasters will visit the accident site on Saturday, officials said in their report.

“Our deepest condolences go out to everyone affected by this tragic accident,” the statement from CAIC read. “Be very careful if you’re traveling in the mountains over the next few days.”

Ethan Greene, the director of CAIC, told Denver7 Saturday the most important thing people can do to avoid these accidents is to understand the current conditions and avoid getting caught in an avalanche in the first place. 

He said people should also prepare by carrying an valanche rescue transceiver, pro pole and a shovel, before heading out into the backcountry in the winter time.

"I think what everybody has in common is that desire to really experience the mountains in kind of a raw and ungroomed, unkempt manner," Greene said. "Unfortunately, once you get caught, you just don't have that many options. Your chance of survival drops precipitously."

There is an Avalanche Watch for the Front Range, Steamboat and Flat Tops, Vail and Summit County, Sawatch Range and Northern San Juan zones until 8 a.m. Sunday, according to the CAIC website, but these conditions may remain as mountain areas are expected to get up to an additional foot of snow starting Sunday.

The Aspen, Gunnison and southern San Juan zones are under an Avalanche Warning until Monday, Dec. 27 at 8 a.m.

Travel in avalanche terrain in all areas under a Watch or Warning is not recommended on Sunday.

This is the third skier death in Colorado since the end of November.

A 72-year-old Boulder skier died on Nov. 30 in a crash with a snowboarder at Eldora Ski Area that remains under investigation. A week later, a 60-year-old man died in the same ski area after crashing into a tree.

A total of 12 people died in the 2020-2021 avalanche season, the most in nearly a decade, according to CAIC officials.