Search and Rescue and Telluride Ski Patrol have recovered the body of a backcountry skier who was killed in an avalanche Tuesday in the Bear Creek Preserve area in Telluride, according to the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office.
Searchers found the body of 47 year-old Salvadore Garcia-Atance with a probe line near the creek at the top of the Bear Creek trail about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“Of course, this is not the outcome any of us were hoping for, and on behalf of myself and all of us involved in this mission, we extend our sincerest condolences to Mr. Garcia-Atance’s family,” said Sheriff Bill Masters.
The avalanche occurred between 10 and 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Tempter area of Bear Creek a couloir off the Telluride Ski Resort. It was about 75 feet wide and left a debris field 300 feet long and 15 to 20 feet deep, according to public information officer Susan Lilly.
The area is adjacent to the Telluride Ski Resort and is considered out of bounds and is prone to avalanches.
The avalanche was set off by a snowboarder, the Sheriff’s Office said, adding that an investigation continues.
Garcia-Atance had been skiing the Bear Creek drainage from town using climbing skins. He was reported overdue at 4:20 p.m. Tuesday, according to the San Miguel Sheriff’s Office. The Bear Creek Trail in Telluride was closed at 5:24 p.m. Tuesday to allow for a search of the area.
An unsuccessful two-hour ground search was conducted in the area late Tuesday with rescuers and Telluride Avalanche dog teams.
Ground search efforts continued Wednesday morning by San Miguel sheriff deputies, search dogs, Telluride Ski Patrol, and a Telluride Helitrax helicopter.
By order of the sheriff, Telluride ski lifts 14 and 6 were ordered closed for much of Wednesday for the safety of rescuer efforts. Bear Creek Trail and the lifts have reopened, but the avalanche threat continues.
“Whether you are walking your dog, skinning up, or backcountry skiing, Bear Creek is not a safe place to be,” Sheriff Masters said.
The steep Bear Creek drainage attracts experienced backcountry skiers and snowboarders.
In February 2018, legendary Telluride snowboarder Gabe Wright died after a fatal crash in the Bear Creek backcountry. There were no signs of an avalanche at the scene.
The Telluride area is under a “considerable” avalanche danger warning, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Dangerous avalanche conditions exist above and near timberline.
“Cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making essential,” the warning states.
A winter storm warning is in effect from 5 p.m. Wednesday to 5 p.m. Friday in the San Juan Mountains. Twelve to 24 inches of snow is expected, with up to 33 inches at higher elevations.
Power lines might be affected, the National Weather Service said.