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Deadly avalanches run high in Idaho

Adam Atchison

Boise – If you're headed to the Idaho backcountry, you'll want to be careful. Idaho avalanche deaths make up more than 25-percent of the national total so far this year.

Four people have died in the Gem State in avalanches so far this season. According to the Colorado Geological Survey, that's the most Idaho has seen since at least 1985.

Idaho's avalanche fatalities have all happened within the last couple of months. In early January, Marsha Landoldt and Robert Busch were killed while sleeping in their beds near Fairfield, Idaho when an avalanche slammed into their cabin.

In late February, a snowmobiler was killed in the backcountry just west of Ketchum, and just this past weekend, another snowmobiler was buried and killed in more than five feet of snow at Jeru Peak near Sandpoint after triggering an avalanche.

Avalanche experts say there could be many reasons for the increase in numbers, including just an unpredictable slide, like the one that killed Landoldt and Busch. Idaho has also seen quite a bit more snow than usual this season and more people are going out to play in it.

Idaho Mountain Search and Rescuers encourage snowmobilers and skiers to have the proper equipment when headed to the backcountry.

“Have everything you can to make it easier for them to find you,” said trainer George Gunn. “Have a probe and shovels in your group. Everybody should have an avalanche beacon and know how to make it work.”

Gunn said people are buying more and more equipment – like snowmobiles – which enable them to travel to places where avalanche dangers are high.

Avalanche experts warn that as the weather gets warmer, we may see more avalanches in our state.

CASCADE – Valley County officials are warning recreation enthusiasts to be extra careful in the backcountry.

The avalanche risk is moderate in most areas of the county, but on slopes more than 35 degrees the risk is rated as considerable.

The sheriff's office says windy ridges are especially dangerous right now because they've been loaded with loose, redistributed snow and there's not much bonding between the layers of snow.

Officials say people need to be cautious, bring enough equipment to survive overnight and always let someone know where they are.