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An elementary school principal was killed in an avalanche in Montana on Valentine’s Day


An elementary school principal was killed by an avalanche while splitboarding in Montana on Valentine’s Day.

Craig Kitto, 45, of Bozeman died Sunday evening after being injured in an avalanche earlier that day, according to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

Kitto was with another splitboarder when the avalanche was triggered in Beehive Basin, according to a press release from the US Forest Service.

Beehive Basin is in the Big Sky area of Montana, about 50 miles southwest of Bozeman and just northwest of the Wyoming border.

A splitboard is a snowboard that comes apart into two separate pieces.

When the avalanche struck, Kitto’s partner was able to grab onto a tree, but Kitto was carried downslope where he was hit by a tree and partially buried.

Kitto had been the principal at Whittier Elementary School in Bozeman since 2018.

His wife, Lana Kitto, told CNN her husband was loved by his staff and had an “authentic connection with kids.”

“He was a servant to everyone and always put others first,” Kitto said. “He was a tireless hard worker and no task was to big.”

Kitto said her husband “lived to love” her and their daughters.

“His desire to live big, took him out in a big way. I will love and miss that constant adventuring with him by my side,” Kitto said.

Active avalanche season

Kitto was one of three people who died in avalanches on Sunday.

The three deaths bring to 20 the number of avalanche deaths this year, and 25 for the season, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), which keeps a record for fatalities across the country.

The toll is on pace to being the highest ever. The deadliest years were 2008 and 2010 when 36 avalanche fatalities were recorded by the CAIC.

Fatal avalanches have been reported in eight states this season, including a Washington State trooper who was killed while snowmobiling in Kittitas County, Washington last week and four back-country skiers who were caught and killed in Utah earlier this month.

Nikki Champion, a forecaster at the Utah Avalanche Center, told CNN earlier this month that the deadly season could be the result of two reasons — people enjoying more time outdoors and a “really dangerous snowpack.”

This year’s avalanche season has likely been more active because of a “persistent weak layer” of snow, according to Champion.

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