Backcountry skier killed in weekend avalanche near Big Sky
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) ” A backcountry skier died in an avalanche northwest of Yellowstone National Park over the weekend, Gallatin County officials said.
Ben Richards, 21, and a friend were skiing a gully known as the Titanic Chute in the northern Madison Range near Big Sky on Saturday morning when Richards triggered an avalanche two turns into his run.
Richards was carried more than 1,000 vertical feet over rough terrain, said Doug Chabot, director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. He was buried under 4 feet of snow.
Deputy Coroner Roger Layton said it took Richards’ skiing partner a half-hour to descend the difficult slope and locate Richards, who was wearing an avalanche transceiver.
The Titanic Chute is a 2,000-foot run filled with trees, rocks and other obstacles.
The cause of death was multiple blunt force trauma.
“He was carried a long way over some pretty ugly terrain,” Layton said.
Richards had taken an avalanche training course, and both men were experienced backcountry skiers. They carried appropriate equipment, including beacons, probes and shovels, Chabot said.
“It appears they did everything right,” said Sheriff Jim Cashell. “It just goes to show it’s dangerous.”
According to a report on the Avalanche Center’s Web site, Richards’ partner performed a ski cut ” a maneuver that tests a slope’s stability and helps determine whether an avalanche will begin ” before the two men started down the gully.
“They knew the danger was considerable on slopes steeper than 30 degrees. They knew it was risky,” Chabot said.
The area received more than a foot of snow last week, and windy conditions on Friday packed snow onto southern- and eastern-facing slopes, raising the avalanche risk to “considerable.”
The avalanche happened at about 11 a.m. and Richards’ skiing partner was able to make it to a phone to call for help at about 1 p.m.
Cashell said Big Sky Search and Rescue responded and a private helicopter lifted Richards’ body off the mountain.
Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com