Washington State Trooper Killed by Avalanche While Snow Biking

by Atlanta Northcutt

A veteran Washington State Trooper has been lost due to a deadly avalanche on Monday while he was snow biking.

Steve Houle dedicated his life to serving others. He served for more than 28 years in the Commercial Vehicle Division of the Washington State Patrol.

The Death of a State Trooper

On Monday, a “very large” avalanche resulted in the death of the patrolman. The 51-year-old’s loss was reported after he was found under the falling snow.

“Steve was a great person and an excellent employee, loved and respected by us all,” says Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste in a statement. “We hold his memory and his family close to our hearts in this painfully sad time.” 

The Northwest Avalanche Center reported two snow bikers by a “very large avalanche” in the French Cabin Creek area north of Cle Elum around 12 p.m. on Monday.

According to authorities, one biker was able to dig himself out. Following the two becoming trapped in the snow, Houle’s friend was partially buried, while the former state trooper became fully engulfed. The friend survived and was able to locate Houle in the snow. As police went to investigate the body, that’s when they discovered the body. They then pronounced him dead at the scene.

The Kittitas County Sheriff said in a press release that Houle’s body was first discovered around 7 p.m. He was then declared dead.

“On behalf of the Sheriff’s Office, I would like to extend our deepest condolences to Trooper Houle’s family, friends and the Washington State Patrol,” Sheriff Clayton Myers says in a statement. “This is a tragic accident and will be felt hard in our close-knit law enforcement community.”

His fellow troopers had nothing but positive and caring words to say of Trooper Houle.

“Our hearts are broken tonight as we mourn the loss of a great trooper,” Washington State Patrol District 1 spokesperson Trooper Ryan Burke tweeted. “Rest easy brother, you will be missed.”

This Year Marks the Most Avalanche Deaths in Centuries

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center recently stated that the U.S. has reached its deadliest week of avalanches in more than a century. More than a dozen people have died in these devastating situations during this winter season.

Houle was the 22nd person in the U.S. to die from an avalanche during the past year. He was the first Washington State resident to pass away.

As of Tuesday, there is an increase in avalanche danger for the central Washington region.

Last week, the Northwest Avalanche Center said there have been “numerous avalanche involvements and near-misses” recently in the Pacific Northwest. The center warns that “many of our zones will likely see high avalanche danger with uniquely unstable snowpack conditions” over the weekend.