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Skier dies in East Vail avalanche

February 4, 2021, 5:16 pm

Editor’s note: The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office release this statement on Friday: “The victim in yesterday’s tragic avalanche has been identified by the Eagle County Coroner’s Office as 41-year-old John Kuo from Vail. The cause and manner of death are still under investigation by the Eagle County Coroner’s Office.”

Just days after three Eagle residents died in a massive avalanche while backcountry skiing in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, another skier has died closer to home in the East Vail Chutes just outside of Vail Mountain.

“On [Thursday] February 4 a skier was caught and killed in an avalanche in the East Vail backcountry south of Vail. You can read the preliminary report here,” the Colorado Avalanche Information Center reports. “Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends, and everyone affected by this accident.”

The CAIC had issued an Avalanche Warning for the Vail-Summit County region on Wednesday, and more than a foot of new snow fell overnight.

Here’s the press release from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office:

On February 4, 2021, at approximately 12:00 p.m., the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report of an avalanche at the East Vail Chutes. The East Vail Chutes are in the backcountry outside of Vail Mountain’s boundaries. Vail Mountain Rescue Group in collaboration with Vail Ski Patrol responded to the scene to assist with the recovery operations. Tragically one skier was trapped in the slide and did not survive the incident. Sheriff Van Beek said, “This is a very unfortunate accident and our thoughts are with the victim’s friends and family”.

The Eagle County Coroner’s Office will determine the cause of death and will identify the victim pending next of kin notifications.

Snowstorms pile up one after the other all winter long. The wind blows snow off of some slopes and on to others. Temperature changes cause snow crystals to metamorphose. If the snow’s consistency remains constant, the snowpack is homogenous and stable. It’s when the snowpack develops different layers of different snow types that it becomes unstable and hazardous. 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.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the backcountry avalanche forecast in Eagle County is rated as considerable. This means that there are dangerous avalanche conditions and that cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making is essential.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, Vail Ski Patrol, Eagle County Coroners Office, Eagle County Paramedic Services, Colorado State Patrol and the Vail Mountain Public Safety Communication Center worked collaboratively on this incident.

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