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Massive avalanche near Cooke City claimed the life of a snowmobiler

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Cooke City, Montana – An extremely huge avalanche north of Cooke City claimed the life of a snowmobiler on Saturday, December 31, 2022, according to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.

At a height of 9,800′, the avalanche happened on a southeast-facing slope. On nearby slopes, two snowmobilers were traveling uphill. 100-200′ below the peak, one was ascending a steeper slope when the avalanche occurred. He was lowered 600 feet to the ground, then buried five feet underground. The biker who was buried was sporting an airbag pack that was not in use. Each cyclist carried a shovel and a probe. Avalanche beacons were not on their person.

Within minutes following the slide, a group of bikers riding close by went up to it, noticed a snowmobile buried, and started looking for the rider who had been buried. One of the riders from the group proceeded to Cooke City to call for help. One hour after the avalanche, the cyclist who was buried was discovered with the use of a probe line. CPR and an AED on the scene were unable to revive him.

The avalanche appeared to be between two and four feet deep, 500 feet wide, and traveled 600 feet vertically before breaking on brittle snow towards the base of the snowpack.

Officials stated on social media that this death is the most obvious proof that the snowpack is still capable of generating massive and dangerous avalanches.

“Slides can break on weak layers in the lower snowpack, within the snow that’s fallen over the last week (particularly where it has been wind drifted) or on a weak layer buried just beneath it. Continued patience (avoiding avalanche terrain) and adherence to safe travel protocols (riding one at a time, carrying rescue gear, and watching your partners for a safe spot) are the best ways to manage these concerns. MODERATE danger across the region.”

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