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Sheriff identifies skier who died in avalanche near Beaver Creek

March 23, 2021, 11:19 am

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday issued the following press release identifying the victim of a side-country avalanche Monday near Beaver Creek as 37-year-old local Gary Smith. His death was first reported by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which provided this file photo of Sanctuary Chute.

Eagle County – On Monday, March 22, 2021, at approximately 2:00 p.m., the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report of an avalanche in a backcountry chute in an out-of-bounds area near the Beaver Creek ski resort.  The avalanche occurred in a chute near the bottom of the Larkspur area known as the Sanctuary Chute where one skier was tragically trapped in a slide and did not survive the incident. A second skier was able to locate and dig his companion out of the slide and call for help. 

The victim in yesterday’s avalanche incident has been identified by the Eagle County Coroner’s Office as 37-year-old Gary Smith who was a beloved local and avid skier with experience as a former ski patrolman. Our sincere condolences to the victim’s friends and family of this tragic accident. 

The Beaver Creek Ski Patrol worked in collaboration with Vail Mountain Rescue Group who responded to the scene to assist with the recovery operations into the evening.  The Eagle County Coroner’s Office will determine the final cause of death pending an autopsy.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the backcountry avalanche forecast in Eagle County has consistently been rated as considerable this season. This means that there are dangerous avalanche conditions and that cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making is essential. It is extremely important for the backcountry traveler (especially on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees) to take the time to analyze the layers of the snowpack and test their stability.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, Beaver Creek Ski Patrol, Eagle County Coroner’s Office, Eagle County Paramedic Services, Strawberry Park Medical, and the Vail Public Safety Communication Center worked collaboratively on this incident.

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