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Snowboarder killed in avalanche on Berthoud Pass identified

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is warning backcountry goers to stay safe as the state enters a period of dangerous conditions.

GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — The snowboarder who was killed Monday in an avalanche on Berthoud Pass has been identified as Brian Bunnell, 44, of Lakewood.

The Grand County Sheriff's Office said four people were caught in the avalanche, and two were buried. Bystanders and family members were able to rescue one of the buried people, but the other didn't survive.

The avalanche was on the west side of the pass near Winter Park, according to the Grand County Sheriff's Office,.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the avalanche was at 11,500 feet in an area locally known as Nitro Chute. It was near where another snowboarder triggered a separate avalanche at around the same time. No one was injured or killed in that avalanche.

The Grand County coroner's office on Friday identified Bunnell the victim.

"This is a tragic reminder that you can trigger a dangerous avalanche on many wind-loaded slopes steeper than about 30 degrees. Our sincere condolences to all the friends and family of the deceased," CAIC wrote.

Grand County Sheriff’s Office responded alongside Grand County EMS, Grand County Search and Rescue, Alpine Search and Rescue, East Grand Fire Department, Flight for Life and CAIC.

Credit: Grand County Sheriff's Office

The center noted that conditions were similar across most of the Northern and Central Mountains and will continue to be dangerous. Temperatures are warming up after a historic cold snap going into the holidays, and CAIC said a significant storm is starting that will last until at least Wednesday.

From Tuesday into Wednesday, western portions of the central mountains will reach level 4, which is high avalanche danger. The center said this new, high-density snowfall will see the snowpack go past its tipping point, leading to what could be widespread natural avalanches.

This storm will be followed by another large snowfall this weekend, they say.

Despite the excitement fresh snow brings, CAIC said we're entering a period of high avalanche danger.

"Don’t let time off work, new equipment your backcountry partner bought you for the holidays, or the excitement of fresh powder turns lure you into dangerous avalanche terrain during an extended period of dangerous avalanche conditions," CAIC warned.

Since Dec. 23, the center says there have been at least two other close calls with avalanches almost burying individuals after being triggered near Marble and on Berthoud Pass.

"With the threat of remotely triggering avalanches you not only need to be aware of overhead hazards for your own party, but you should be aware of other parties traveling near you. Strike up a conversation at the trailhead, share what conditions you are seeing out there, discuss your trip plan, and let's all enjoy safely recreating in these beautiful snow-covered mountains together," CAIC advised.



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