A week from graduating high school, Alaska avalanche survivor Peter Schutt was physically on top of the world as he climbed Donoho Peak near the Alaska/Canada border.
Unfortunately, Schutt’s adventure took a dangerous turn when an avalanche struck. Snow that was once a fixture on the frigid face of the mountain suddenly cut loose and turned into a freight train of cold, sugary crystals stampeding in rapid, unstoppable motion.
The avalanche pitched him over a 75-foot cliff on his tumble down 2,500 feet of the jagged mountain face. He remembers covering his head as best he could to prevent further injury.
After the avalanche Schutt’s friend and partner made his way down, contacted National Park Service via cell phone and provided cell phone GPS coordinates to aid the rescue response.
Two avalanche defendants, snowboarders, are facing charges and a $168,000 fine for an avalanche that threatened I-70. A judge just dismissed their motion to dismiss video of the avalanche they gave to Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
A Summit County Court judge dismissed a motion to suppress a GoPro video of the avalanche. Evan Hannibal and Tyler DeWitt had given the video to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).
The video is evidence in the Summit County District Attorney’s case against Hannibal and DeWitt. They are charged with reckless endangerment and could face a $168,000 fine. These are the first criminal charges ever filed against skiers involved in an avalanche in Colorado.
The second avalanche death in two years in Dutch Draw, and at least the fourth in total, has spurred an Avalanche Risk Discussion.
The victim and his girlfriend exited the backcountry access gate atop the Ninety-Nine 90 Express. Then they hiked up the ridge before dropping in to snowboard down a run called Conehead. The victim went first, and when he was about halfway down his girlfriend followed. Then an avalanche occurred. The woman was not caught in the slide.
Some people have argued more should be done to warn skiers who may be unaware of the dangers posed by backcountry terrain. They could put resort personnel near the gate to inform people of the risk. Or require checking out with ski patrol and carrying an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe. A check-out procedure is used at some other resorts.
An avalanche south of Cooke City carried three skiers down Republic Mountain, two were injured in the avalanche. One had to be evacuated by helicopter and another was temporarily unconscious and not breathing, according to a report.
In many ways, the skiers had done everything right. All six were carrying beacons and had rescue gear. They had radios to summons help.
However, they did not check the snowpack in the place they decided to ascend the mountain. They had dug a snowpit 2 meters deep to check the likelihood of an avalanche. But a hundred feet off to the side the snowpack changed, with much less snow, only three feet.
An Elko, Nevada, snowmobiler died in a Wyoming avalanche on Friday. It is estimated that he was buried inverted under the snow for about 15 minutes.
Brandon Jones, 41, was snowmobiling away from his party late on Dec. 18 on “Suicide Mountain”. He triggered a medium-sized avalanche 24" deep. He was able to deploy an airbag, which kept him near the snow surface with a leg sticking out.
Avalanche risk is already present in Colorado despite the lack of early season snow. According to a user-submitted report to the Colorado Avalanche Center a skier was caught in a human-caused avalanche burial on Monday near Marble, Colorado.
An avalanche accident killed one skier in Switzerland. Authorities in the Swiss canton of Nidwalden said one off-piste skier among a group of five people was killed after getting caught in an avalanche Monday in the Titlis area, south of Lucerne. Rescue teams were not able to resuscitate the 23-year-old Swiss citizen after he was rescued.