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Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center speaks on avalanche danger following third seasonal death

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Posted at 10:26 AM, Jan 03, 2023

The avalanche death on December 31, 2022, near Cooke City marked the third avalanche death nationally of the season. The other two avalanches occurred in Colorado involving a skier and snowboarder during the last week of December in separate incidents.

According to Doug Chabot, Director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center (GNFAC), the rider that was killed in Cooke City was buried for nearly an hour and was located by probe lines. The riders were brothers from Washington, and the victim was not wearing a beacon. The rider was identified by his family as 21-year-old Wyatt Oden Coiteux.

Chabot said the ranges in the area are classified as moderate for avalanche danger. “We have two weak layers across the whole region,” Chabot said. “The first is buried near the ground and the other is closer to the surface,” he told MTN. Chabot went on to explain that conditions are getting better right now but there is still a risk of triggering a slide in the backcountry, and those slides could be big if they are triggered.

“Any time there is an accident, we can pick it apart to see what went wrong and what can we learn here,” Chabot said. “What they were missing was a transceiver which is the most efficient way to find someone who is buried,” he said. Chabot explained that at a minimum, you want to have a shovel, beacon, and a probe.

“This week is pretty clear weather,” Chabot went on. “But when you have clear weather, a lot of times you create new weak layers,” he explained about our current snow conditions in the backcountry.

The GNFAC puts out daily reports online during the winter on current conditions.