Vail founder’s grandson dies in East Vail avalanche
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 Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis. 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.
“This is a shocking and terrible tragedy,” said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. “Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Tony’s entire family. I want to acknowledge how integral the Seibert family is to the fabric of our community; their contributions to Vail date back to Vail founder Pete Seibert, Tony’s grandfather. This is an incomprehensible loss and we will support the Seibert family and our community through this difficult time. Tony had recently starred in ‘Climb to Glory,’ a documentary that will forever be a tribute not only to the famed 10th Mountain Division and his family’s legacy but to a wonderful albeit tragically too short life.”
Pete Seibert Sr., a 10th Mountain Division veteran of World War II, first saw the mountain that would become Vail when his friend Earl Eaton, a valley native, brought him there in 1957. Seibert moved forward with finding investors, securing the land at the base, and organizing construction. Vail Mountain opened in December 1962.
Vail Mayor Andy Daly extended the community’s condolences, thoughts and prayers to the Seibert family, noting the tremendous impact and passion for skiing the family has had in Vail over three generations.
“Words can hardly describe the heartfelt sadness we feel upon learning of this tragic loss,” he said.
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 numerous avalanche fatalities over the years.
The avalanche danger in the area is rated as considerable. Experts say slides there are becoming harder to trigger but when slides develop they are very large and dangerous.
“One of the problems we’re dealing with over the last two days is windloading,” said Spencer Logan with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. “We’ve had a few small storms accompanied by very strong winds and that drift the snow into slabs two to four feet thick. Those are on top of the snowpack, and on the bottom of the snowpack we have a really weak foundation, 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.”
Logan said the Colorado Avalanche Information Center has a team of forecasters heading out to the site of today’s slide on Wednesday to gather facts and information about the incident.
Five people have died in avalanches in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana in the last two weeks.
This story will be updated.