Avalanches kill snowmobilers in Idaho, Washington over the weekend

Two snowmobile riders were killed during separate avalanches in Idaho and Washington on Friday as a multi-day blizzard pounded the Northwest over the weekend.

On Friday, two snowmobilers triggered a slide near Darland Mountain in Yakima County, Washington, at around 6,000 feet, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center. One of the riders was fully buried and did not survive, according to NWAC.

On the same day in North Idaho, two snowmobile riders were caught in an avalanche in the southern Selkirk Mountains. An avalanche warning was in effect for the area at the time of the incident. 

One of the riders was "barely able to outrun the avalanche," according to the Boundary County Sheriff's Office. The surviving rider immediately went back to find his friend, who was wearing an avalanche beacon, but he was found dead, buried under 4 feet of snow, deputies said.

The body of Lance J. Gidley, 54, of Sandpoint, Idaho, was recovered the next day by the sheriff's office and an experienced group of snowmobile riders, some of whom were friends of the victim, according to the sheriff's office.

"The recovery operation took about 9 hours due to the rugged terrain, challenging weather, and the high risk of further avalanche," the sheriff's office said.

This winter season has been dangerous for winter sports enthusiasts.

Also on Friday, snowmobilers in Wyoming were buried by an avalanche captured in a heart-pounding video. However, the riders were able to free themselves and search for survivors.

On Feb. 9, two snowmobilers triggered an avalanche near Battle Pass, Wyoming, in an area known as "Avalanche Alley." A 34-year-old man was killed in the incident, according to the Eastern Wyoming Avalanche Information Center. 

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, ten avalanche deaths have been reported in the U.S. since January. During the 2022-2023 season, 30 fatalities were reported from avalanches.

Avalanche danger remains high

Multiple avalanche centers across the western U.S. are forecasting high and considerable avalanche danger this week after significant snowfall from last week's winter storm and more snow incoming. 

The Northwest Avalanche Center forecasts considerable (3 out of 5) avalanche danger for several zones across Washington. 

After the fatality over the weekend, the NWAC surveyed the avalanche in the East South Zone. The center stressed the importance of knowing the zone where you are skiing and checking the conditions. 

"While we don’t know for sure, this avalanche likely failed on older persistent weak layers in the snowpack. This problem is not unique to the East South zone. Many other areas are dealing with the exact same problem. Please check the forecast before heading out to find additional details for your zone," the NWAC said.

Considerable avalanche danger is also forecast across parts of southern Idaho this week, according to the Sawtooth Avalanche Center. This includes Galena Summit and Eastern Mountains, Soldier and Wood River Valley Mountains, Banner Summit, Sawtooth and the Western Smoky Mountains. 

In Utah, high avalanche danger is forecast for the Skyline Area Mountains, according to the Utah Avalanche Center.