On Jan. 2, 2014, in Montana, Gallatin County Search and Rescue personnel depart from the Portal Creek trailhead, north of Big Sky, Mont., after transferring the body of Burton Kenneth Gibson, 46, to the Gallatin County Sheriff Coroner. Gibson was killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling at Onion Basin, about 14 miles southeast of Big Sky.(Photo: Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez, AP)
VAIL, Colo. - One man died and three other people were injured Tuesday after an avalanche in the back country near this ski resort town.
The snow slide happened around 11:30 a.m. MT in the East Vail Chutes between Vail Mountain and Vail Pass, said Jessie Mosher, Eagle County Sheriff's spokeswoman. It was visible from Interstate 70.
The avalanche was triggered near the treeline outside Vail Ski Resort, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. It is not clear whether the people caught in the avalanche were skiing or snowboarding.
On Monday, the center warned of dangerous conditions at all elevations in Vail and Summit counties with wide slabs of snow likely to be unstable because of snowfall and winds during the weekend. Though slides in the area are becoming tougher to trigger, Spencer Logan of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said that when they develop they are large and dangerous.
Such dangerous conditions are possible each winter, but last year they didn't develop until late January because significant snowfall didn't develop until later in the season, he said.
While below freezing - Vail's high was 30 degrees Tuesday - temperatures in the area have not been as low as the eastern two-thirds of the country. The low in town is expected to be 20 degrees with a 30% chance of snow showers.
The three survivors' injuries aren't life threatening, Mosher said. Search and rescue crews worked during the afternoon to get them out of the popular backcountry area about 80 miles west of Denver.
That portion of East Vail has had several fatalities in the past two decades, according to the Denver Post. Between 1990 and 1996, four avalanche-related deaths occurred, two happened in 1996, one in 2008 and two in 2010.
On Dec. 22 skiers triggered two avalanches in the East Vail Chutes, the paper reported. In one, a trapped skier was rescued by his brother.
On Dec. 31 in the first Colorado fatality of the 2013-14 ski season, a backcountry snowboarder died east of Steamboat Springs, Colo., after being buried just off the northeast ridge of Parkview Mountain about 90 miles northwest of Denver.
Five people have died in avalanches in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming in the past two weeks.
Contributing: Stephen Meyers, Fort Collins Coloradoan; The Associated Press