Kalispell Man Killed in Avalanche in Glacier Park

Two backcountry skiers were descending Stanton Mountain when avalanche was triggered

By Tristan Scott

A 36-year-old Kalispell man was killed Thursday in an avalanche while backcountry skiing on Stanton Mountain in Glacier National Park, officials confirmed.

Authorities have not released the name of the victim pending notification of next of kin.

According to Lauren Alley, public information officer at Glacier National Park, 911 dispatchers received a report from the victim’s skiing companion at approximately 3:15 p.m. The companion, speaking by mobile phone, told dispatchers that his partner had been partially buried in a large avalanche on the south-facing aspect of Stanton Mountain and was severely injured. The companion warmed the victim and provided medical care while awaiting the emergency response. According to Alley, a third skier was below the other two and away from the avalanche path.

Two Bear Air, a privately owned search and rescue helicopter, responded to the incident while the ALERT Air Ambulance staged at the base of Stanton Mountain, on the north end of Lake McDonald. Park rangers also mobilized a ground search in the event the air rescue was unsuccessful.

Jim Pierce, chief pilot for Two Bear Air, said the helicopter crew arrived on the scene around 4 p.m. and extracted the victim from his location approximately 500 yards below the summit.

“It was a pretty big avalanche,” Pierce said.

Pierce said the victim was conscious and responsive but had experienced severe trauma.

The man was pronounced dead during the course of the rescue operation.

The skiing companion was not caught in the slide and spent “a considerable amount of time” searching for the victim, eventually locating him by voice, Alley said.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said the avalanche broke off near the top of the mountain and the victim died of injuries that were the result of severe trauma.

Curry said he would release the victim’s name Friday morning.

Avalanche danger on Thursday was rated as moderate in southern Glacier Park at elevations above 5,000 feet, according to the Flathead Avalanche Center.

Both skiers were experienced and equipped with safety gear including probes, shovels, beacons and helmets.

In the coming days, Glacier Park officials will coordinate with the Flathead Avalanche Center to investigate the sequence of events that triggered the avalanche and caused the fatality, Alley said.