Colorado's Avalanche Death Toll Climbs

Snowboarder escapes death in Colorado on Saturday, but 2 others die in separate avalanches on Sunday
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2021 6:07 AM CST
2 More Avalanche Deaths Add to Colorado's Grim Total
An avalanche warning sign is posted at a closed ski run at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area on Friday at Mammoth Lakes, Calif.   (AP Photo/Christopher Weber)

The nation's deadly avalanche count just got higher, with two more fatalities on Valentine's Day in Colorado. CNN and the Colorado Sun report that a snowboarder going down the slope on his own was buried around 9:30am local time Sunday in a backcountry slide near Mount Trelease, not far from the Loveland Pass. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reports that the victim—identified as 57-year-old David Heide, per KCNC—was found above the tree line covered in avalanche debris, his head buried and his avalanche airbag deployed, by a search and rescue team. In a separate avalanche on Sunday, a snowmobiler died after an above-tree-line avalanche buried him under his sled on Pumphouse Lake, per the CAIC.

This is the sixth avalanche death in Colorado this month alone, with a total count of 10 for the season—the deadliest in the state since the 2012-2013 season. Experts are attributing the uptick in avalanche deaths taking place in multiple states to more people taking part in outdoor winter sports during the pandemic, as well as to a weak snowpack. In a piece of better news, a snowboarder near East Vail made it out of an avalanche alive on Saturday, thanks to quick thinking and a special device, per the AP. Even though his head ended up buried under about a foot and a half of powder, the man dug a small air pocket in front of his face and sucked in oxygen using an AvaLung, which draws air from the snow and directs exhaled carbon dioxide into an exhaust tube so that the user doesn't breathe it back in. He survived that way for 10 minutes, until his snowboarding partner was able to locate him. (More avalanche stories.)

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