Avalanche kills snowmobiler near Rifle | VailDaily.com

Avalanche kills snowmobiler near Rifle

Phillip Yates, Heidi Rice and Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs Correspondents
Vail, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado ” A 45-year-old snowmobiler died Friday when he was buried in an avalanche north of Rifle Falls in Little Box Canyon.

The name of the victim was not released, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said. The snowmobiler is the seventh person to die or be presumed dead after recreating in Colorado’s backcountry this winter.

The snowfall has been so heavy this year the Colorado Avalanche Center is warning people to be very careful and check the latest weather report before going into the high country. Wildlife officials say it may be necessary to feed wildlife.

The incident was reported about at 12:12 p.m., and the body was recovered two hours later.

“He was under the snow for quite a while,” Vallario said.

The man’s body was found in the snow two miles up the Little Box Canyon north of Rifle Falls about 3 p.m.

Four other people have died in Colorado after being caught in avalanches this winter, said Spencer Logan of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

On average, six die from avalanches each year in the state, Logan said.

The man’s death comes after two skiers were killed by avalanches in separate incidents in the East Vail Chutes this winter. They were the first fatalities in the avalanche-prone backcountry area, near the boundary of Vail Ski Resort, in more than a decade.

Snowboarder Jesse Brigham, 27, died Jan. 4 in an avalanche in the East Vail Chutes. Eight days later and several hundred yards away, another slide killed local skier Matthew Gustafson, 33.

A week ago, a skier was caught in a shallow avalanche in the East Vail Chutes but managed to escape without injury. The slide carried the skier over some cliffs before he was able to escape it, the report said.

In the wake of the avalanche Friday, Logan said “the avalanche danger was considerable above treeline” and that below the treeline it was moderate. He explained “considerable” means people are likely to trigger avalanches in the area and “moderate danger” means human-triggered slides are possible.

Logan said he didn’t know details about the incident, but said most of the terrain in the area north of Rifle is below treeline. He recommended staying out of obvious avalanche chutes and checking avalanche forecasts at http://www.avalanche.state.co.us.

But he added that even slopes as small as 50 to 100 vertical feet can produce dangerous avalanches in certain conditions.

The Associated Press and the Vail Daily contributed to this report.

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