An avalanche swept through part of a Washington state ski resort used for alpine skiing Saturday, killing a 60-year-old man and trapping five others temporarily in the snow.
The avalanche was reported around 10:50 a.m. in the Silver Pool area of Crystal Mountain Ski Resort, which is about 85 miles southeast of Seattle, said Sgt. Darren Moss of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.
The identity of the man who died has not been released, but authorities say he was not breathing after he was pulled from the snow and did not survive despite the efforts of another skier on CPR. The other skiers in his group rescued themselves with the help of two witnesses who saw them get snowbound. All were wearing avalanche beacons.
Although all of those caught in the avalanche were experienced backcountry skiers, a warning was issued banning skiing in the area, which is just outside the boundaries of Crystal Mountain Resort. The private ski resort defines the conditions, but nothing prevents skiers from skiing there because the resort area borders public lands in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Frank DeBerry, president and CEO of the resort, said all six had lift passes, which means they were registered with the ski patrol, were instructed on how and where to ski on the resort property, and had to check the snow conditions before their trip.
“The skiers are free to go anywhere they want in the national forest. They went into the woods, but ended up going back to the (resort) limits, where the derailment occurred,” DeBerry said.
In addition to closing the area where the avalanche occurred, the resort closed the gondola at Mount Rainier earlier in the day because of winds reaching 100 mph.
The avalanche occurred amid the first heavy snowfall of the season. A winter storm warning is in effect for the region through Sunday morning, and the National Weather Service said 12 to 15 inches of snow is possible in areas above 2,000 feet.
“We had a late start to the season, and now we’ve gone from almost no snow to a huge snow storm. People are getting excited,” DeBerry said. “We all have to remember that this is a sport that involves risk.”
Crystal Mountain is the largest ski resort in Washington state, at 2,600 acres.