An avalanche near Ophir Pass on Friday afternoon, March 30, killed a 34-year-old Crested Butte man, according to San Juan County Coroner Keri Metzler.
The victim was idenified Saturday as John Knox McEwen Frank.
San Juan County Undersheriff Kristine Burns said it was “a huge slide,” that ran for about a mile. The slide was reported at about 2:45 p.m. near the San Miguel and San Juan county boundary.
San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters, whose department also responded to the incident, said his office received a report from the operator of the Opus ski hut that a party of skiers was overdue.
A helicopter from Telluride Helitrax responded and began searching the area. Pilot Chuck MacFarland, who is also a San Miguel deputy, spotted the avalanche and three persons searching the snow deposition field.
"He immediately inserted his passengers, who were part of a Warren Miller film crew, to assist with the rescue effort," Masters said.
The other three skiers reported that the vicim was the first skier on a 30-degree east-facing slope. After skiing about 50 yards, an avalanche started about 50 feet above him.
"The group yelled 'avalanche!' to the victim and he turned, but was immediately caught in a larger wet slab slide," Masters said. "The slide was about 200 yards at the top and then fed into drainages."
The victim was wearing a body recovery "rescue" beacon and the three remaining skiers found his body after about 45 minutes of searching, Masters said.
"The victim's body was about 1,000 feet from the start of the avalanche, under 3 to 7 feet of snow," Masters said.
CPR was performed but rescuers were unable to revive the man.
Burns offered praise to the newly formed San Juan Avalanche Deployment Team, which took part in the rescue effort.
"They were rockin' and rollin,'" Burns said.