Unstable conditions required helicopter to recover body
A skier-triggered avalanche near Marble left one man dead on Sunday afternoon, January 13. The man, identified by the Gunnison County Sheriff’s office as 37-year-old James Lindenblatt from Summit County, was skiing with three friends when they triggered an avalanche in the Raspberry Creek drainage in the Raggeds Wilderness Area.
A report by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) confirmed that the skiers were descending “a steep westerly aspect off the Marble Peak Ridge Sunday afternoon. The fourth skier triggered a soft slab and was buried and killed in the resulting slab avalanche.”
According to Nicholas Kempin with Crested Butte Search and Rescue President, the skier’s friends were able to locate and dig him out, but he was already deceased.
Without any way to get Lindenblatt out of the backcountry and due to the continued avalanche danger, the surviving skiers left the area and notified authorities late Sunday afternoon.
Kempin was not on the scene but confirmed that eight Crested Butte SAR members and four members of the Western State Colorado University SAR went to the basin to assess conditions with the help of forecasters from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center who were familiar with the terrain.
They initially consulted with Jayson Simon Jones of Crested Butte Mountain Guides, who is also a board member of the Crested Butte Avalanche Center, but Simon Jones put them in touch with CAIC because they were more familiar with the terrain.
“We were told on Sunday night by the skier’s companions that they thought there was still significant danger in the area, so we wanted to make sure we had the best possible chance and the safest way to figure this out,” Kempin said.
According to Brian McCall with CAIC, conditions were moderate meaning that natural avalanches were unlikely but human triggered avalanches possible. The entire basin and the immediate location of Lindenblatt’s body were deemed unstable, and to protect the team the decision was made to call in a helicopter. The Gunnison County Sheriff arranged for a helicopter to recover the remains on Monday.
A statement from the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office called the mission “incredibly difficult and dangerous.” The sheriff’s office and the search and rescue teams were relieved to complete the mission without any injuries to the responding parties.
“It was a collaborative effort,” Kempin said. “We were successful getting in and out of there and recovering the body without anybody getting hurt.”