Avalanche Kills One Skier In Washington

by Matthew Memrick

An avalanche at a Washington state ski resort killed one man and almost buried five others on Saturday.

The disaster happened as the area’s first big winter storm closed in on the ski resort this weekend. Also, the resort’s first day of the season was in the past week. 

Rescuers pulled the 60-year-old man from the snow in the Silver Basin area of Crystal Mountain, but CPR efforts failed. The disaster occurred Saturday morning around 10:50 a.m. The black diamond area was outside the regular ski area boundary and next to the “Avalanche Basin” area.

The resort, advertised as the state’s largest ski area with 2,600 acres of unmatched terrain, is 85 miles southeast of Seattle.

Witnesses Helped Save Five Skiiers

According to the Seattle Times, the six skiers took to ski touring that day before the late morning incident happened.

Two witnesses helped by telling rescuers where to go for the remaining skiers. Those skiers also worked to free themselves. People magazine reported that the skiers each had “an avalanche beacon, allowing rescuers to “quickly” locate them.”

Crystal Mountain Resort president and COO Frank DeBerry told the Seattle Times he did not know if the other men in the group required medical attention.

According to the website Statista, 37 people died in avalanches in the United States in 2020. It was an increase over the previous year.

In one time period earlier this year, the nation suffered 15 deaths from Jan. 30 to Feb. 6. It was the worse week for avalanche deaths in the U.S. since March 1, 1910, according to the Earthsky website. As of Feb. 12, the website reported 22 avalanche deaths.

The rest of the ski resort operated under “normal operations” because the incident happened in the backcountry, authorities said. King 5 News reported that beginner and intermediate lifts ran at the resort, and only the lower mountain lift operated. 

Weather Picking Up At Washington Resort

People reported on the resort’s Twitter page posting. It said a gondola closed Saturday because of 100 mph winds at the top of the mountain and added that the wind was “hurricane-like.”

“Please drive carefully if you are coming to the mountains this weekend,” the resort added.

A winter storm warning was in effect for the resort late Saturday. Weather experts said up to 15 inches of snow could hit areas in the region. 

Social media reacted to the unfortunate news. One former reporter Chris Clough sent condolences while telling people about the importance of checking weather conditions.

Another man, Randal Matthew, commented on the Fox 13 Twitter post to say that “perhaps going to the passes during a weekend in which nearly 2 and a 1/2 feet of snow is to fall in 48 hours isn’t a smart idea.”

Another Twitter user said, “This is incredibly sad but I can’t think of a worse time to hike backcountry with the conditions up there today.”