Avalanche kills backcountry recreationist on Parkview Mountain in northern Colorado, official says

A backcountry recreationist was killed by an avalanche on Parkview Mountain in northern Colorado on Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.

The fatality was reported to the Grand County dispatch center at 1:32 p.m., the Grand County Sheriff's Office said in a news release. Both Grand and Jackson counties' rescue teams responded to the area.

There were conflicting accounts about whether the party of three people were skiing or snowmobiling, said Scott Toepfer, an avalanche forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

A 911 caller reported there'd been an avalanche and two members of the party had dug out the person trapped under the snow, according to Toepfer. The victim had no pulse and the two survivors attempted CPR without success.

 

"It was reported the victim was partially uncovered with no pulse," the Grand County Sheriff's Office said. "Grand County Search and Rescue extricated the deceased victim from the southeast aspect of Park View Mountain within Grand County."

The sheriff's office said information concerning the victim and other individuals in the party was being withheld on Tuesday night.

At the time of the avalanche, the forecasted threat was moderate in what's known as the Steamboat Zone, Toepfer said.

Toepfer said he suspects the avalanche was caused by what's known as a persistent slab slide. This condition is created when an early-season snowfall deposits a weak layer of granular snow. As heavier, denser snowstorms pile up on the weak layer, it's like a house that's built on a shaky foundation.

"My assumption at this time is that it was probably a persistent slab (avalanche) that was just lurking, waiting for someone to hit the wrong spot," Toepfer said.

Toepfer said he suspects that "recent northerly winds have drifted denser, stronger snow on top of this weak snow [layer] which formed earlier in the season, creating a persistent slab."