OUTDOORS & RECREATION

Body of skier retrieved from Idaho backcountry after avalanche that forced rescue of 2 other men

Jan 13, 2024, 11:06 AM

An avalanche has swept down a mountainside in Idaho's panhandle....

An avalanche has swept down a mountainside in Idaho's panhandle. (Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

MULLAN, Idaho (AP) — Authorities in Idaho on Friday located and retrieved the body of a man who was caught in an avalanche while backcountry skiing with two other men who were rescued the previous day.

The two men were located after authorities received a GPS alert of a possible fatality in an avalanche near Stevens Peak close to the Montana border shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement posted on social media.

Authorities established communications using a GPS texting device with the two men. Following a search of the area, the pair were located and transported for medical care, the sheriff’s office said. One of the men suffered a broken arm, KREM-TV reported.

A discussion with the rescued men led authorities to believe the third man in the skiing party had perished at the avalanche site. After the search was postponed for the night, the body of the third skier was located Friday afternoon, the sheriff’s office said.

The deceased man was identified by the Shoshone sheriff’s office as Corey J. Zalewski.

The recue of the two men and the search for the third in below-zero temperatures involved personnel from the sheriff’s offices in Shoshone, Kootenai and Spokane counties, the U.S. Air Force and other regional emergency crews.

The area of the avalanche was several miles southwest of the Lookout Peak ski area and more than 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Missoula, Montana.

The area had been under an avalanche danger warning for several days because of snowfall and blowing winds that have created unstable conditions on high, steep slopes.

The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center warned that avalanches triggered by human activity “remain likely” on steeper terrain.

2 men rescued and 1 believed dead after avalanche hits Idaho back country

Another avalanche in central Idaho trapped two vehicles on Highway 21 Thursday night, along a notorious stretch of road dubbed “avalanche alley.”

Boise County Sheriff Scott Turner said the people inside were unharmed, and they managed to climb out their vehicle windows and use a cellphone to text 911. The region has limited cellular service, which can make it tough to get help.

“We encourage people that travel the backcountry to use some of the other technology, like the satellite Garmin devices,” he said.

The winter was unusually dry until this week, which has led to a lot of pent-up demand from winter recreationists, Turner said. But the conditions are dangerous for recreationists and rescuers, he said.

“We had some snowmobilers stuck earlier Thursday, and the rescue personnel really had a hard time getting them out because there were avalanches coming down across the trail and the road,” Turner said. Still, everyone made it home safely, he said.

“We’re encouraging everyone to stay in the lower areas this weekend,” he said.

The Idaho avalanches came a day after the first U.S. avalanche death of the season was reported in California. An avalanche roared through a section of expert trails at the Palisades Tahoe ski resort near Lake Tahoe on Wednesday morning, trapping four people and killing one.

A second avalanche struck the same area near Lake Tahoe on Thursday, but there were no reported casualties.

In February, three members of a mountain climbing club from New York perished in an avalanche on a remote peak in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state.

Three climbers in Alaska’s Denali National Park died in May in two separate incidents the same day. One triggered an avalanche while skiing in the park’s backcountry and two others were swept away as they prepared to climb a peak known as Moose’s Tooth. Their bodies were not found.

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Body of skier retrieved from Idaho backcountry after avalanche that forced rescue of 2 other men