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Idaho Backcountry Skier Killed

Idaho Backcountry Skier Killed in Spring Avalanche on Donaldson Peak

DONALDSON PEAK, IDAHO – A backcountry skiing trip turned tragic on Friday, May 10, as a deadly avalanche on Donaldson Peak in Idaho’s Lost River Range claimed the life of an experienced skier. The incident unfolded just before noon when the skier, identified as Skier 1, inadvertently triggered a wind slab avalanche that led to fatal consequences.

The preliminary report from the Sawtooth Avalanche Center and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center details that while transitioning to their ski descent, Skier 1 activated a small avalanche. This initial disturbance set off a second, larger slide. Skier 2, who accompanied the victim, immediately sought help using a satellite communication device and navigated the avalanche debris to locate Skier 1. Despite successfully excavating the victim from under 5 feet of snow and initiating CPR, the rescue efforts were not enough to save Skier 1’s life.

This sorrowful event highlights the unpredictable nature of spring snowpack and the critical need for vigilance in avalanche-prone terrains. The community and fellow outdoor enthusiasts have offered condolences, emphasizing the importance of safety and preparedness in such challenging environments.

A complete report on the incident will be shared once completed.

A view of the Lost River Range in Idaho.

Spring Avalanche Safety Tips

As the seasons change, so do the conditions in avalanche terrain. Spring brings unique challenges that require specific awareness and preparedness. Here are key safety tips for backcountry users during the spring months:

  1. Early Start: Spring temperatures can rise quickly, so it’s crucial to start your backcountry outings early in the day when the snow is still firm.
  2. Monitor Temperature: Pay attention to overnight temperatures and the daily warming trend. Warm temperatures can weaken the snowpack significantly, increasing avalanche risk.
  3. Check Avalanche Forecasts: Always consult the local avalanche forecast (available at avalanche centers’ websites) before heading out. Understand the current avalanche problems and their implications.
  4. Recognize Red Flags: Signs such as recent avalanches, cracking snow, and audible whumping sounds are indicators of unstable snow.

  1. Proper Gear: Carry and know how to use essential avalanche rescue gear, including a transceiver, probe, and shovel. Consider a rescue airbag.
  2. Stay Educated: Participate in avalanche safety courses and refresh your knowledge regularly. Awareness and training are vital in recognizing and responding to avalanche hazards.
  3. Plan Your Route: Choose routes wisely based on the current avalanche forecast and avoid terrain traps such as gullies or steep confined slopes.
  4. Travel One at a Time: When crossing avalanche terrain, do so one person at a time to minimize exposure and ensure that others are ready to respond if an avalanche occurs.

By adhering to these safety measures, backcountry enthusiasts can better protect themselves and their groups from the inherent risks of spring avalanching.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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