Berthoud Pass Snowboarder Not Wearing Beacon

Friends Remember Man As Upbeat

A snowboarder whose body was discovered Wednesday morning near Berthoud Pass was not wearing an avalanche beacon, searchers said.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center stated in its accident report on Thursday that 26-year-old Jeff Miller and his friend triggered an avalanche that fatally buried Miller and his dog on Monday morning.

The report stated the accident happened in a backcountry location known as the High Trail Cliffs. The avalanche area was at an elevation of 11,200 feet and happened in a partially forested slope below a cliff band. The slide was triggered during the beginning of a large natural avalanche cycle.

Wind gusts were recorded at more than 80 mph at a nearby weather station that day. Nearby Winter Park Resort reported receiving more than half a foot of snow on the day of the avalanche. The high winds and the heavy snowfall elevated the avalanche danger to high and the area was under an Avalanche Warning, according the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Friends and family members all described Miller as an upbeat and personable man.

Katie Looby said she first met Miller when she moved to Colorado several years ago.

"He always had a smile on his face," she said. "He always made his friends happy. When you were around Jeff, you were always having a good time."

Ian Gough, co-owner of Smokin’ Moe’s Ribhouse & Saloon in Winter Park, said Miller, who originally was from Oklahoma, worked at his restaurant as a waiter for about a month since he and his long-term girlfriend came back after spending six months in Brazil.

Gough said he had known Miller for several years and that nobody ever had a bad thing to say about Miller.

"He was a pretty outgoing friendly kind of guy," he said. "As a waiter he loved to talk. He definitely would talk to his table."

Dustin Rhea, Miller's cousin, told 7NEWS that, "I have so many great memories of Jeff, he has gone too early. Thanks to every one who participated in finding him. He brought the community together. I am sure he would want us all to try to find the good in this."

Looby and Gough both said Miller was an experienced snowboarder and familiar with the backcountry terrain around Berthoud Pass.

Rescuers discovered the body of Miller's pet German shepherd, Beau, next to Miller.

Miller's friend who was also snowboarding was uninjured by the avalanche. The friend told the Grand County Sheriff's Office that he came down the run first but neither Miller nor Beau showed up. After a quick search, he descended to U.S. Highway 40 to call 911.