BIG SKY (AP)
An avalanche 500 feet long killed a backcountry skier in the mountains west of Big Sky, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center said. The avalanche Sunday swept the man into trees and he was dead from trauma when searchers found him within 10 minutes of the slide, the center said in a statement. Searchers included the man’s ski partner and other people in the southwestern Montana area known as Beehive Basin. Madison County Sheriff Dave Schenk confirmed the death, and referred a request for more information to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department in Bozeman. Only Sheriff Jim Cashell could release information and he was out of his office Monday for observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Deputy Alan Broadaway said. The avalanche came a week after one that killed two backcountry skiers near the Whitefish Mountain Resort in northwestern Montana. Two witnesses said the avalanche Jan. 13 buried at least two more skiers. Authorities cited bad weather, unstable snow and lack of a missing-person report in suspending a search three days later. That slide occurred on U.S. Forest Service land, outside of resort boundaries. In Wyoming, three men died in an avalanche while snowmobiling on Jan. 12 in the Star Valley south of Jackson. Avalanches have killed at least 22 people across the West since Dec. 2. The national average for avalanche deaths is about 25 a year, according to the Co l o ra d o Ava l anche Information Center.