Deadly Western Avalanches May Persist With More Heavy Snow, Wind

Large snow amounts and strong winds have caused deadly avalanches to start 2014. With an active storm track threatening more heavy snow and high winds, dangerous mountain conditions are expected to continue across portions of the Northwest.

At least five people have been killed so far this winter in Big Sky, Mont., Jackson Hole, Wyo., Neeley, Idaho, and most recently in Vail, Colo.

The latest fatality has been confirmed as Anthony Seibert, the 24-year-old grandson of Pete Seibert, Sr., who is a co-founder of the widely popular Vail ski region.

"This is a shocking and terrible tragedy," Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operations officer of Vail Mountain stated. "Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Tony's entire family. I want to acknowledge how integral the Seibert family is to the fabric of our community; their contributions to Vail date back to Vail founder Pete Seibert, Tony's grandfather. This is an incomprehensible loss and we will support the Seibert family and our community through this difficult time."

Colorado Interactive Radar
Winter Weather Center
Skiing Forecast

The deadly avalanche that took Seibert's life and injured three others occurred on Jan. 7 around 11:30 a.m. at the East Vail Chutes, according to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. The group was skiing and snowboarding in the back country of the mountain.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) cited significant snow with little reprieve between systems as a factor in the avalanche, along with strong winds. Avalanches can be triggered by strong winds or the skiers themselves that shake entire slabs of snow loose and send them barreling down a mountain side.

The CIAC said that the areas of concern from earlier in the week are now stabilizing.

On New Year's Day, an avalanche killed a snowmobiler at Onion Basin in Montana. Other skiers and snowmobilers were killed just after Christmas in Idaho and Wyoming. A backcountry traveler was buried New Year's Eve on Parkview Mountain in Colorado.

Avalanche risks are being listed as considerable in the Yellowstone Park area of Wyoming.

"A few storms will move through over the next few days with the bigger of the bunch late Saturday and Saturday night into Sunday," Western Weather Expert Ken Clark said. "These will bring periods of snow and gusty winds."

"Usually what contributes to avalanches is unstable layers of snow, usually a bottom layer that has been melted some and then refrozen with a fresh snow pack coming on top of it. Think of the bottom layer being like a teflon pan and the top layer your eggs," Clark said.