1 dead, 5 survive after avalanche at Crystal Mountain ski resort

<p><p>SEATTLE — The first big storm of the season dropped about a foot of snow on Crystal Mountain on Friday evening, and a group of six men, a mix of friends and family, had taken to the Silver Basin area backcountry for a day of ski touring.</p></p><p><p>The area — a large, steep open bowl that straddles the south end of the resort’s ski boundary — wasn’t yet open. The resort only opened last week, a relatively late season start, and the ski patrol hadn’t completed its annual avalanche-control work.</p></p><p><p>Before 11 a.m. Saturday, tragedy struck: An avalanche buried at least four of the skiers, and one, a 60-year-old man, died. He is the first to die on the mountain since 2019, officials from the resort said. Details on the man’s identity were not immediately released.</p></p><p><p>Frank DeBerry, president and chief operation officer of Crystal Mountain Resort, said he did not know if the other men in the group required medical attention.</p></p><p><p>“This should serve as a really firm reminder that, even though it’s late, even though we’re all anxious to get out there and be on the snow and have a good time, and even though this is the very first snowstorm we’ve had to enjoy all year … if you are backcountry skiing … you need to remember all of those (safety) practices and take great care and pay very close attention to open and closed terrain,” DeBerry said.</p></p><p><p>Around 10:50 a.m., the ski patrol received a call from someone in the party reporting that a group of six people had been struck by an avalanche. When it’s open, the area is designated as a black diamond, which means it is some of the steepest, and most difficult terrain to traverse. Before the patrol takes avalanche mitigation measures — like using explosives to trigger avalanches while skiers aren’t on the mountain — the area is prone to drifts breaking off and collapsing.</p></p><p><p>Sgt. Darren Moss of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said those who survived were wearing electronic avalanche beacons and were involved in a self rescue; it wasn’t immediately clear if those buried in snow rescued themselves, or were rescued by members of the party who weren’t trapped. The 60-year-old man, though recovered, had stopped breathing and couldn’t be revived, Moss said.</p></p><p><p>Ski patrol arrived and led the group down the mountain, DeBerry said; DeBerry didn’t immediately have details about when ski patrol located the group. Staff posted warnings to other skiers, he said, out of concern that snow hanging above the avalanche’s crown — a so-called “hang fire” — might put them in danger if they try to ski in the area.</p></p><p><p>Officials didn’t immediately have additional details about the person who died or the five others who survived.</p></p><p><p>The ski resort’s winter season has only just begun, with limited lift operations this weekend in preparation for a full reopening on Monday. According to the resort’s mountain report on Saturday morning, snow was “packing up and wind is blowing strong.”</p></p>