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HomeNewsColorado Doctor Dies While Snowboarding, Becomes State’s First Avalanche Death This Season

Colorado Doctor Dies While Snowboarding, Becomes State’s First Avalanche Death This Season

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Service members with the Alaska Army National Guard
Source: Alaska National Guard/Wikimedia Commons

 The US just recorded the very first case of an avalanche casualty in the new season. The body of a Colorado doctor was found on Monday after several grueling hours of search and rescue. Unfortunately, the harsh weather and terrain prevented the team from reaching him early, and his body has since been evacuated. 

In the past few weeks, the winter has brought a series of cold storms around the country. Some schools have switched to remote study, and some companies even permit their staff to work from home. 

However, despite the stillness of activities for some businesses, this is open season for ski resorts. It is also a period for adventurous folks to seek the solitude of snow-covered backcountries. Dr Peter Harrelson was probably one of the first to dust his snowboarding gear to find a productive way to pass the slow months. Unfortunately, the harsh weather had other plans. 

Reports have it that Harrelson lived most of his life in Ophir and was quite familiar with the terrain and weather of that area. Snowboarding was probably an annual ritual for him and some of the other locals. 

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On the faithful adventure that would turn out to be his last, Harrelson was on a skiing trip through the backcountry of the Waterfall Creek area. According to the local Sheriff’s Office, this route is just South of Ophir. 

However, the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office received a distress call later that evening. At about 7:39 pm, they got a notice that Dr Harrelson had not returned from his skiing trip. The authorities immediately launched a search and rescue operation in the San Miguel Mountains. 

Friends and family anxiously did their best by tracing his tracks, but all with no success. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) initially assisted with the rescue; however, they put off the search later that night. 

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By Tuesday morning, the Sheriff had more resources for the search. They deployed rescue crews, got a helicopter for an aerial search, and infused rescuers in the mountainous backcountry. 

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Not long after the beginning of the morning search, they found Harrelson’s body. With several bruises all over him, the coroner projected that he had been in a violent avalanche. 

After investigating the terrain and shifts in the snow sheets, the CAIC suggested that the avalanche came crashing down from 10,500 feet. Their postulations also infer that the victim was swept for about 200 to 300 feet before the avalanche’s halt. 

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However, Harrelson’s body was found lying under a tree. The San Miguel County Coroner suggests that the doctor successfully dug out of the snow after the avalanche. Next, he hiked for another 220 to 310 feet before lying down, probably from exhaustion, and passing out in the frigid weather. 

The Sheriff’s Office has since issued a statement, consoling the family of Harrelson for their loss. Likewise, the statement appreciates everyone, both volunteers and the SAR team, for their efforts. The Sheriff’s Office has it on record that Harrelson is the first casualty of an avalanche in the new season. 

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