Missing snowmobiler rescued but second found dead

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 23, 2012 10:28 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - One of two snowmobilers missing following an avalanche in northwestern Colorado was rescued after an exhaustive search on Monday but the other was found dead, authorities said.

Missi White, spokeswoman for Jackson County Search and Rescue, said one of the two snowmobilers was rescued and taken to a local hospital after being spotted from the air by searchers.

White said she had no further information on the snowmobiler who was found dead following the search.

The two snowmobilers, who were not immediately identified by authorities, had gone missing in a snowslide at 10,180-foot Buffalo Pass.

The incident followed a weekend in which two skiers were killed in avalanches at separate Colorado ski resorts over the weekend.

Three juveniles on Vail Mountain were skiing in an area closed off due to the avalanche danger when the trio triggered an avalanche on Sunday, said Jesse Mosher, spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff's Office.

Taft Conlon, 13, died from chest injuries he suffered in the slide, Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said.

The other two juveniles were not seriously injured.

At the Winter Park ski resort northwest of Denver, a 28-year-old man was reported missing by his skiing partners late on Sunday afternoon, resort spokeswoman Mistalynn Lee said.

The ski patrol located the man, who was "unresponsive," on an expert ski trail. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead, Lee said.

Grand County Coroner Brenda Bock identified the dead man as Christopher Norris of Evergreen, Colorado. Bock said an autopsy concluded that he died of asphyxiation.

Brian Lazar, deputy director of the Colorado Avalanche Center, said a thin early winter snowpack combined with recent heavy snowfalls and high winds on Colorado slopes had created the dangerous conditions.

The risk of a natural avalanche lessened on Monday, he said, but human-triggered slides are likely.

Any snow-covered slope of 30 degrees or steeper is prone to avalanches, Lazar said, adding, "If you are venturing into the backcountry, choose your route carefully."

A Pacific storm moving into the Rockies on Monday will bring more snow, but forecasts are for light accumulations which shouldn't elevate the avalanche risk, Lazar said.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune)