Vail founder’s grandson dies in avalanche

Four skiers were caught in a large avalanche in the East Vail Chutes on Tuesday, killing 24-year-old Vail native Tony Seibert, the grandson of Vail founder Pete Seibert Sr. The avalanche was 12 feet deep and 700 feet wide, running 900 feet.
Jeff Cricco | Special to the Daily |

VAIL — An avalanche in the East Vail Chutes has left the 24-year-old grandson of Vail’s founder dead.

Tony Seibert, of Vail, died in the slide, which happened shortly after 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Eagle County Coroner’s office. Seibert is the grandson of Vail founder Pete Seibert.

Three other skiers were injured in the avalanche and have been released from the hospital, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

Bettis said the cause of death will be determined after an autopsy Wednesday.

The avalanche covered all of CDC — Charlie’s Death Chute — in the popular East Vail Chutes sidecountry ski area. It broke 15 feet at the crown and ran hundreds of feet, almost to the bottom, said Dan Smith, with Vail Mountain Rescue Group. The terrain in CDC is steep, 35-39 degrees, with an east to east-north-east aspect just at treeline.

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Four people were skiing with the party. Three suffered non-life threatening injuries.

“Much of the effort was directed at finding out if there was anyone else in there,” Smith said. “This is not the time to ski the East Vail Chutes.”

The East Vail Chutes is an out-of-bounds area accessible through a gate from the lift-served area of Vail Mountain. It is popular with backcountry skiers, but has been the site of eight avalanche fatalities in the last three decades.

Another avalanche in CDC — the same area Seibert was skiing on Tuesday — also killed 27-year-old Jesse Brigham, nearly 5 years ago to the date on Jan. 4, 2008. That slide contained a hard slab 2 to 7 feet deep and 130 feet wide, and ran 800 vertical feet, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Spencer Logan with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the cold weather that’s typical in January weakens the early season snow layers.

‘Weak foundation’

“On the bottom of the snowpack we have a really weak foundation,” Logan said. “We have early season snow that sat on the ground, and it gets really weak in cold weather, and then we’ve had some pretty good snowfall in December that’s covered that.”

The storms that came through our area on Saturday and Sunday didn’t help, Logan added.

“One of the problems we were dealing with over the last two days is windloading,” Logan said Tuesday. “We’ve had a few small storms accompanied by very strong winds and that drifts the snow into slabs 2 to 4 feet thick. Those are on top of the snowpack.”

Logan said the Colorado Avalanche Information Center has a team of forecasters heading out to the site of Tuesday’s slide today to gather facts and information about the incident, and will publish a full report in the coming days.

Five people have died in avalanches in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana in the last two weeks.

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