VAIL - A Westminster man became Colorado's sixth avalanche death this winter when he was swept away in a huge slide Thursday afternoon.
Mark McCarron, 38, died when he was caught in an avalanche on North Ptarmigan Hill in Avalanche Bowl south of Vail Pass.
McCarron was one of three snowboarders using snowmobiles to access the backcountry from Vail Pass. When the slide cut loose, McCarron and one other snowboarder were swept away, according to a report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
The CAIC said McCarron likely died from his injuries, while his friend managed to ride out of the way. Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said an autopsy is scheduled for this weekend, and declined to conjecture on the cause of death.
The CAIC described the slide as a deep, persistent-slab avalanche, 10 feet deep and close to 300 feet wide. It snapped trees up to five inches in diameter, and was on a north-facing slope about 12,000 feet above sea level.
The CAIC staff inspected the site Friday.
The 911 call came in about 1:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
The avalanche was triggered when a friend on a snowmobile dropped off the two snowboarders at the top of the bowl. The three riders had been taking turns making runs down the Avalanche Bowl all day, said the Eagle County Sheriff's office report.
All three were experienced snowboarders and snowmobilers who are very familiar with the Avalanche Bowl area, and were all carrying with safety equipment, the Sheriff's report said.
McCarron's friends found him by using avalanche beacons. Their efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
Detectives with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office said the snowboarders were under the influence of marijuana at the time of the incident.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center will continue provide backcountry reports through late May. Go to avalanche.state.co.us.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.