CORTEZ – A backcountry skier was killed Sunday after being buried by an avalanche near Lizard Head Pass, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
The man was identified as Scott Spencer, 53, of Telluride, according to the San Miguel Coroner and Sheriff’s Office.
Spencer’s body was found Monday afternoon by San Miguel and Telluride Ski Patrol search and rescue teams, a news release said. He was buried under an avalanche on the west side of Yellow Mountain in an area east of Priest Lake, 12 miles south of Telluride.
Spencer was from Telluride and leaves behind a wife and two children.
“We are all deeply saddened to lose another husband, father and beloved member of our community in such a tragic event,” said San Miguel Sheriff Bill Masters.
This is the second avalanche death in less than two weeks in the region. Another Telluride resident, Salvadore Garcia-Atance, 47, died after being buried by an avalanche in the Bear Creek area Feb. 19.
Spencer was reported overdue Sunday near the Matterhorn Nordic trail system north of Trout Lake, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
That afternoon, his dog was found barking and in distress by the man’s vehicle parked at the Matterhorn Nordic parking lot. A man who had been in the same area told deputies he saw evidence of a slide but did not see the missing man.
Rescuers searched the area by helicopter Sunday and located two significant avalanches and debris piles. Rescuers then conducted a search. They located some equipment believed to be that of the missing party, but they were not able to locate him because of incoming weather and nightfall. A search was planned for the next day.
On Monday, a search was delayed by weather until the afternoon. Search and rescue teams and avalanche search dogs went into the area of the avalanche debris field by Mountain Blade Runner and Telluride Helitrax helicopters.
Telluride Ski Patrol avalanche dogs quickly alerted handlers to an area of interest. Rescuers used pinpoint probes to locate and recover Spencer’s body.
He was found in a slide estimated to be 100 feet wide by 800 feet long on the west side of Yellow Mountain. He was buried about 3 feet deep.
The avalanche appeared to be triggered by the skier as indicated by the visible ski track, according to a preliminary report by the avalanche information center. The area of the avalanche east of Priest Lake is locally known as Base Camp 1.
The soft slab avalanche broke around 300 feet wide and ran about 600 vertical feet. It released on a south-facing slope about 11,250 feet, according to the report. While the slide was small relative to the path, it was large enough to bury a person.
Spencer is the sixth skier to die in an avalanche in Colorado this winter.