Avalanche kills longtime local near Crested Butte Tuesday

Skier swept into trees

By Mark Reaman

A longtime Crested Butte local with extensive backcountry experience was killed while skiing the Climax Chutes on Mt. Emmons Tuesday morning. Dan Escalante, 44, a former Crested Butte town councilman, mountain guide, construction worker and Green Man, was in a party of four when a wet slab avalanche carried him into a grouping of trees, where he sustained traumatic injuries. He was not buried in the slide.

According to emergency rescue personnel, friends on the scene attempted resuscitation on him for an extended period of time.

Crested Butte Fire Protection District (CBFPD) chief Rob Weisbaum said that the Crested Butte Mountain Search and Rescue Team, the CBFPD, the Mt. Crested Butte police department and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center personnel were on-scene.

“We sent an initial crew to the area to evaluate the situation and assess the risks involved and the status of the patient,” Weisbaum explained. “We were able to maintain contact with the parties involved via cell phone. Trauma cardiac arrests in the backcountry setting are not survivable.”

Weisbaum estimated the accident occurred about 10:45 Tuesday morning. Four people were in the ski party and only Escalante was caught in the slide.

Warming temperatures on Tuesday made the snow conditions dangerous and a recovery mission was not safe Tuesday. Weisbaum said the remaining party was able to descend safely out of the field. The Crested Butte Mountain Search and Rescue Team performed a recovery mission early Wednesday morning as a freeze cycle and safer conditions were in place. Weisbaum said the recovery mission was successfully completed before noon.

Gunnison County coroner Michael Barnes said Wednesday that early indications appeared to confirm that Escalante died of “multiple traumatic injuries due to a ski accident.”

Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim.

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