Multiple fatal avalanches occurred over the weekend in Colorado amid dangerous conditions, frigid temperatures, and fresh snow, including one that involved a snowmobiler that was caught and killed in Grand County, Colorado.
Taking place on February 14, the fatal avalanche that killed the snowmobiler occurred near Rollins Pass on an above-treeline east-facing slope of Mount Epworth, which is found east of Fraser, Colorado in Grand County. When the avalanche came to a rest, the snowmobiler was buried under his sled and debris on frozen Pumphouse Lake. The avalanche occurred at an elevation of about 11,600 feet.
The Denver Post identified the deceased snowmobiler as Michael "Tony" Westall, a 58-year-old real estate investor from Parker. Westall was reportedly in the mountains snowmobiling with one of his three sons.
The second fatal avalanche that occurred in Colorado over the weekend involved a backcountry tourer that was killed near Loveland Ski Area on Mount Trelease. He was alone when the accident occurred. According to a preliminary report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the deceased was snowboarding at the time. He was able to deploy an avalanche airbag, though his head was buried when he was found.
Thus far during the 2020-2021 snow season, 13 individuals have been buried by avalanches in Colorado, 10 of which have died. Of the deceased, eight were skiers, one was a snowboarder, and one was snowmobiling.
Avalanche risk is quite high in Colorado at this time – a three of five in all zones with the exception of the Northern San Juan zone. In the Northern San Juan zone, avalanche risk is even higher, rated at a four of five with an avalanche warning active through Wednesday morning.
It's always important to check for the most up-to-date information regarding avalanche risk prior to any trip into the backcountry. Find that on the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website.