crested butte

Fresh animal tracks mark the snow on the hill above Crested Butte while the sun rises over the Colorado mountain town in December. You can purchase a print of this image and other Gazette photos at Crested Butte wintry beauty

CRESTED BUTTE • A roof avalanche killed one man here and injured another, and another roof avalanche buried a man who was shoveling his sidewalk, emergency officials reported.

Blair Burton, 37, and Stephan Martel, 25, were clearing snow from the low-angled roof of a commercial building in the Crested Butte South neighborhood when the snow surged and buried them about 4 p.m. Saturday.

Authorities arrived about 10 minutes after a 911 call, and employees had started digging the men out.

Colorado hit by hundreds of avalanches in past week; backcountry ski guide killed

The snow depth wasn’t reported, but one man was extricated more quickly than the other, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported. They were found by probing and weren’t breathing when they were dug out. The men were buried for up to 30 minutes, officials said.

Both were taken to a hospital, where Martel died and Burton was treated for hypothermia.

Another man was buried by a roof avalanche in Mount Crested Butte on Friday night.

Alex Theaker, 28, was shoveling a sidewalk Friday when the snow from the roof came crashing down on him. He was buried in 2 to 3 feet of snow for two hours, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported.

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When he didn’t show for an appointment, his girlfriend checked on him and found the debris pile. She called 911, and crews found Theaker unconscious and hypothermic.

A “basketball-sized” airspace near his face was created by a bent arm, officials said.

Dangerous avalanche conditions persist in nearly all mountainous areas of Colorado, from Steamboat Springs through the Sangre de Cristos, the San Juans, Vail and Summit County and along the Front Range, with an avalanche warning in effect in the Sawatch and Aspen areas, the CAIC reports.

“The potential for backcountry travelers to trigger massive and unsurvivable avalanches remains likely,” the center warned. “Over the past week Colorado has experienced a historic avalanche cycle. These avalanche conditions are very unusual. Although the likelihood of triggering one of these massive avalanches is decreasing, the size of these avalanches remain the same.

“If you trigger one of these avalanches, the chances of survival are minimal. Avalanches over the last few days have impacted infrastructure and taken out large swaths of mature forest. Travel very conservatively in the backcountry and give avalanche paths and any other steep slope a wide berth.”

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