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Avalanche near Cooke City kills one snowmobiler on New Year's Eve

Posted at 6:07 PM, Jan 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-01 20:07:22-05

The worst-case scenario came true for two snowmobilers on New Year's Eve, when they triggered an avalanche that proved to be deadly.

The avalanche happened near Cooke City around four in the afternoon on Saturday. Two brothers were riding around the mountain until an avalanche struck — ultimately trapping and killing one of the men.

The names and information of the men has not been released yet to the public.

According to Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Director Doug Chabot, an average of 3 Montanans die each year in avalanches, and they are typically human caused.

“One of them triggered a slide, and it was a deep slide, about five feet deep," Chabot said. "It carried him a few hundred feet down the hill and completely buried him."

And it's this time of year that Chabot said people need to be the most cautious, when snow is weak and can be easily broken up by the weight of snowmobiles or skiers.

“The rating right now is more of a moderate danger, which is where it’s certainly possible and you have to be really careful,” Chabot said.

According to Chabot, the men came prepared with some of the necessary equipment but were missing the beacon, which would have been very helpful in locating the man beneath the snow, as it sends a signal to those riders nearby.

“They certainly had some avalanche rescue gear, but they didn’t have the beacon which ended up being a critical piece,” Chabot said.

Chabot said the two men were following some of the most important rules, such as only letting one rider test the snow while the other watched. In this instance, that is why one of the brothers didn't get trapped.

“Besides having the right gear, you always go with a partner," Chabot said. "And you always only expose one person at a time. In this case they did that, but it wasn't enough."

It's a tragedy that Chabot is unfortunately all too familiar with, and one he hopes will remind people to be properly equipped when making plans to go into back country.

“A lot of times we carry gear, and we think 'Oh you know I’m not going to get caught.'" Chabot said. "And It’s not just for you. It’s for saving other people."