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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of Dec 31, 2002 - Jan 7, 2003


Avalanche kills snowmobiler northwest of Featherville

"There are several weak layers in the snowpack that we’re concerned about. And now we’re going to load it again with another storm, and we’re going to see some avalanche activity."

— JANET KELLUM, Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center director

Express Staff Writer

An 18-year-old man snowmobiling northwest of Featherville became the United States’ sixth avalanche victim of the winter season when he was caught and buried near Trinity Mountain on Saturday.

According to a press release from the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office, both the young man and his brother were buried in the slide. They were pulled out by friends on another snowmobile, and by the riders of three other snowmobiles who were nearby.

The brother was uninjured, and the rescuers administered CPR to the victim, but were unable to revive him. His name is being withheld pending notification of his family.

The death was the third avalanche accident in Idaho this winter. In separate incidents, skiers were pulled relatively unharmed from avalanches near McCall and Stanley earlier in December.

The other five U.S. avalanche fatalities occurred in New Hampshire, Nevada, Washington and Wyoming, and included climbers, a skier, a snowboarder and a snowmobiler.

The misadventures underscore the dangers of a snowpack that has shown signs of instability for some time, particularly in Southcentral Idaho, said Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center Director Janet Kellam.

"There are several weak layers in the snowpack that we’re concerned about," Kellam said. "And now we’re going to load it again with another storm, and we’re going to see some avalanche activity."

A storm was forecast Monday to dump up to 14 inches of snow on Central Idaho by early Tuesday, and Kellam said the added snow load could potentially cause "high" avalanche danger and trigger large avalanches.

"High is really quite high," she said. "It means things are happening all over. What we say is, travel in avalanche terrain during high danger is not recommended."

Monday’s avalanche advisory warned of significant danger.

"Due to the persistent underlying weak layers, the potential to release a large and dangerous avalanche still exists," wrote Snow Ranger David Gordon. "Deep releases can be triggered from shallower areas in the snowpack or from the weight of a surface slide."

Gordon said he observed numerous natural slides between Lake Creek and Galena Summit, north of Ketchum, Sunday afternoon.

"I was also able to trigger a small slide near a steep north facing rock band, from a 28-degree slope 20 feet away," he wrote. "This persistent activity is an indication that the snowpack is still adjusting to the new load."

Kellam also reminded lift-serviced skiers that ski area boundaries constitute gateways to uncontrolled and potentially dangerous terrain.

"Out of bounds on Baldy is a backcountry snowpack," she said. "It does not receive any avalanche control work. People who step out there are stepping into backcountry conditions, which are unstable right now."


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