By Jay Croft, CNN
A backcountry skier near Cameron Pass in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains died Christmas Eve after being “fully buried” in an avalanche, officials said.
It was Colorado’s first avalanche death of the season. A total of 12 people died in the state in the 2020-2021 avalanche season, the most in nearly a decade, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).
Investigators say Friday’s avalanche was about 150 feet wide. The incident happened at about 2 p.m. (4 p.m. ET) on the southeast end of South Diamond Peak.
“The victim’s partner was able to locate him with a transceiver and probe pole and extricate him from the snow, but he did not survive,” the CAIC said in a news release Saturday.
The cause of the avalanche is under investigation. The victim’s identity has not been released.
“Our deepest condolences go out to everyone affected by this tragic accident,” the statement from CAIC read. “Be very careful if you’re traveling in the mountains over the next few days.”
Cameron Pass is about 65 miles west of Fort Collins in north-central Colorado.
Over the last 10 winters, an average of 27 people died in US avalanches each winter, according to the CAIC. Globally, about 150 people are killed annually.
Ethan Greene, the director of CAIC, told affiliate KMGH Saturday the most important thing people can do is to understand conditions and avoid getting caught in an avalanche in the first place.
“What everybody has in common is that desire to really experience the mountains in kind of a raw and ungroomed, unkempt manner,” Greene said. “Unfortunately, once you get caught, you just don’t have that many options. Your chance of survival drops precipitously.”
On Thursday, CAIC had posted avalanche warnings for most of the state’s mountains. A snowstorm hit on Thursday, leaving behind up to 2 feet of snow in some areas, affiliate KUSA reported.
On Friday, CAIC reported an avalanche warning across the Northern Mountains. CAIC said dangerous avalanche conditions will continue throughout the weekend.
This is Colorado’s third skier death in recent weeks.
A 72-year-old Boulder skier died on November 30 in a crash with a snowboarder, KMGH reported. A week later, a 60-year-old man died in the same ski area after hitting a tree.
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CNN’s Andy Rose contributed to this report.