Benjamin Ryan of Littleton killed in avalanche near Breckenridge

A 31-year-old solo skier killed in a small avalanche above Breckenridge over the weekend likely triggered it when he was near the top of Bald Mountain preparing to descend a northeast-facing chute.

The skier was Benjamin Ryan of Littleton, Summit County government spokesman David Rossi confirmed Tuesday morning.

Ryan was caught and killed Saturday in an avalanche that broke from dry, wind-buffeted snow at an elevation of 13,200 feet and ran downward for 1,300 feet, leaving him buried, according to Brian Lazar, deputy director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Although there were no witnesses, an investigation at the scene Sunday found Ryan set off the slide as he climbed near the top of the mountain, Lazar said.

This fatality brought the number of deaths from avalanches in Colorado over the past year to 11 – one of the deadliest seasons since 2010. Only the winter of 2020-21 saw more avalanche fatalities, a dozen.

The avalanche, once it started, quickly swept up more and more heavy, wet snow.

Summit County Rescue Group leaders, notified at 5:45 p.m. by Ryan’s girlfriend that he wasn’t responding to his phone, deployed a search team that night. Ryan wore a rescue beacon. Searchers reaching the base of the avalanche around 11 p.m. detected a signal from the beacon and swiftly located Ryan’s body under 22 inches of snow, according to a CAIC accident report.

Spring avalanches often break from dry wind-packed snow atop steep slopes, then entrain wet snow and become bigger, a pattern seen around the mountains of western Colorado.

Near Silverton recently in southwestern Colorado, a skier caught in a similar avalanche suffered a broken leg, CAIC officials said.

A skier southwest of Breckenridge on Quandary Peak also was caught recently and escaped without injury.

Snowpack in spring often is seen as safer and more predictable. The slope where Ryan was skiing had a gradient of 40% — relatively steep.

“This is typically what happens in the spring. People will push into bigger, more consequential terrain,” Lazar said. “And even small avalanches can have really serious outcomes.”

Get more Colorado news by signing up for our daily Your Morning Dozen email newsletter.

Source: Read Full Article