Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado – On Tuesday, February 14, 2017 two backcountry snow bikers were caught in an avalanche near West Lost Lake in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area in northwestern Garfield County in Colorado. One of the backcountry travelers was killed in the slide.
The CraigDailyPress.com reports that the man was “riding a Timbersled, which is a snow bike converted from a dirt bike.” The victim was riding with 41-year-old Sean Tyler Searle at the time of the incident. Both men were caught in the slide. Searle was able to free himself, found his partner, and dug him out. Unfortunately, resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful.
Due to poor cell phone service, Searle was only able to text his wife a few details about the incident. Rescuers were notified around noon to search around Sheriff’s Reservoir. Search and rescue teams and air teams responded, but numerous avalanches in the area made the search difficult.
After several hours of searching, rescuers were able to locate the body of the avalanche victim in the slide area. Shortly afterwards at 4:15, rescuers located a tired, but uninjured Searle. Rescuers plan to recover the body on Wednesday. Review further details at SteamboatToday.com.
The CAIC rated the avalanche danger for Steamboat and the Flat Tops area on 14 February 2017 as moderate at all elevations.
UPDATE 2/15: The Denver Post identified the avalanche victim as Jesse Christensen.
UPDATED 2/23: The CAIC released their official avalanche accident report on 2/23. They write that the avalanche occurred on a NE aspect at 10460′ on a 33 degree slope in sparse trees. The avalanche was categorized as R3-D2. Read the full report for a detailed account.
The Rio Blanco Country Sheriff’s Office reported on Facebook that the avalanche occurred at 40° 4’30.83″N 107°14’28.01″W .
We will update this post when more information is available.
This is the 1st avalanche fatality in Colorado this winter and the 9th avalanche fatality in the United States during the 2016/2017 winter season:
- 9 February 2017 – McCoy Creek, Idaho – 1
- 28 January 2017 – Cooper Landing, Alaska – 1
- 5 January 2017 – Stanton Mountain, Montana – 1
- 4 January 2017 – Crystal Mountain, Washington – 1
- 27 December 2016 – White Pass, Washington – 1
- 23 December 2016 – Grand Targhee Backcountry, Wyoming – 1
- 11 December 2016 – Henderson Mountain, Montana – 1
- 10 December 2016 – Mt. Rose, Nevada – 1