KELLOGG – Two skiers have been confirmed deceased after a series of avalanches Tuesday morning on Silver Mountain in Kellogg.
A total of 7 individuals were found by rescue crews from the affected area over the course of the day. Five only suffered minor injuries, while two succumbed to their injuries.
The first confirmed individual who passed away was reportedly found earlier in the day under 10 feet of snow by rescue teams using probes.
The 7th individual (last to be found) was not located until much later in the day after dark. He was initially transported to Shoshone Medical Center in Kellogg, but was later pronounced deceased.
Skiers were caught in the avalanche that occurred on Wardner Peak around 11 a.m. The specific runs, Morning Star and 16-to-1, had been just recently opened after crews from Silver Mountain had done avalanche control blasting in the area.
These runs on Wardner Peak are among some of the more difficult areas of the mountain for skiers and only accessible by foot after they get off of Chair 4.
Avalanche blasting is where mountain authorities deliberately trigger small, controlled avalanches when no one is on the slope. This is done by digging pits to examine the layers of snow or by using radar. They then start an avalanche with explosives.
On smaller test slopes, they may also perform ski checking by deliberately skiing along fracture lines high on the slope. This method is done with a partner who stays at a distance and can immediately act if the test goes wrong.
All three avalanches occurred between 10 and 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
The search and rescue operation had been conducted jointly between Silver Mountain officials, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office, Shoshone County Volunteer Search and Rescue, the Coeur d’Alene Fire Department K-9 Team, and the Idaho Department of Lands.
Rescue efforts were limited to multi-person ground searches with dogs and probes. Starting with the high-debris areas first, teams used a grid system to cover the terrain and search for survivors. Air support was unavailable due to heavy, low-sitting fog covering the mountainous region.
At the time of the avalanche, the Silver Valley (along with St. Regis, Mont.) was under a “high” avalanche danger rating from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center due to the rapid loading of new snow and wind slabs over buried persistent weak layers. These conditions are expected to stay elevated through mid week.
As of press time, the identity of the deceased skiers had not been released, pending next of kin notifications. Rescue crew had halted their search efforts at approximately 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
Silver Mountain stated in a news release that, “indications are all skiers are now accounted for.”
More information on this incident will be released as it becomes available.