Another deadly wave of avalanches struck the western part of the country this week. A ski patrol-triggered avalanche wiped out a chairlift at Washington’s Crystal Mountain, where fortunately no one was hurt. However, two Montana avalanches and a slide in Utah each claimed a life.
Zach Junkermeier, an 18-year-old snowmobiler from Minnesota, was killed by a slide in southwestern Montana on Tuesday afternoon. Junkermeier was stuck on a slope attempting to start his snowmobile when another rider sparked an avalanche just above him. He was found nearly two hours later in the debris, which was reported to be 500 feet wide and 20 feet deep in some places.
A snowmobiler was also trapped and killed by an avalanche in northern Utah on Friday, March 8. He was riding through the Uinta Mountains near Whitney Reservoir when the slide occurred.
Another southwestern Montana avalanche killed a backcountry skier on Monday near the small town of Philipsburg. Peter Maxwell, 27, was with a group of six other skiers when he was trapped by the slide. The Granite County Sheriff's Office said that Maxwell likely started the slide on his own. The other skiers in the group were able to dig out Maxwell but were unable to revive him.
Also on Monday, ski patrollers deliberately initiated an avalanche that gathered more power and snow than expected, wiping out a chairlift at Crystal Mountain in Washington. Patrollers threw a 40-pound explosive on an unstable slope as a normal and common safety precaution. A new video (below) from Stohke was just released, which shows the devastation after the slide.
Since December 26, 23 people have died in avalanches nationwide, according to reports from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.