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Avalanche kills snowmobiler outside West Yellowstone

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Posted at 10:24 AM, Feb 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-07 12:34:58-05

WEST YELLOWSTONE - A snowmobiler was killed in an avalanche on Sunday afternoon outside of West Yellowstone.

According to a social media post from the Friends of Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, the snowmobiler was caught in an avalanche in the Lionhead area. The rider was carried into trees and life-saving efforts were unsuccessful.

The initial call for help was received at 4:48 pm by the West Yellowstone Dispatch Center. The snowmobiler was reportedly involved in an avalanche in the Dry Fork of Denny Creek, 9.8 miles west of West Yellowstone. Initial reports indicated the injured snowmobiler was unresponsive and members of the group were performing CPR.

Volunteers from Gallatin County Sheriff Search and Rescue in West Yellowstone, National Forest Service, Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, and Hebgen Basin Rural Fire Department responded to Denny Creek. A snowmobile rescue team deployed immediately up the trail. Lifesaving efforts were attempted for over an hour before the patient was pronounced deceased. The victim’s name has not been released.

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Forest Service Law Enforcement and Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center is conducting the investigation.

Sheriff Dan Springer would like to offer his condolences to the family and friends of the victim during this tragic time.

Snowfall between Friday night and Sunday morning dropped 12-14” of snow in the mountains around Cooke City. Avoid wind-loaded slopes where unstable slabs are sitting on a weak layer of facets 18-24” below the snow surface and human-triggered avalanches are likely. On non-wind-loaded slopes, carefully evaluate the snowpack and avoid terrain traps that would amplify the consequences of an avalanche.

The wind increased late yesterday afternoon in Hyalite Canyon and will continue to transport recent snow into unstable drifts where avalanches large enough to injure or bury climbers, skiers and riders are possible.

Large avalanches in the West Yellowstone area and near Big Sky and in the Bridger Range are unlikely with yesterday's events being a tragic exception to overall stability. Weak layers a foot under the snow surface signify more trouble to come when the wind blows or snow returns.