An avalanche last week that killed three people was caused by the actions of a group of skiers and snowboarders, an ongoing investigation by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center found.
While North Idaho’s Silver Mountain ski patrol took steps to lessen the risk of avalanches on Jan. 7, the movements of about a dozen people on a trail triggered the deadly avalanche shortly after 11 a.m. that morning, an official told The Spokesman-Review.
“[Ski patrol] had done their control work just like they always do,” the avalanche center’s director, Jeff Thompson, told the newspaper of the ski patrol’s efforts. “In fact, I think they did more than they normally do to open that slope.”
Once the snow began moving, the outlet explained, it slid more than 900 feet down a 35-degree hill. Three people were killed and two others were buried alive but rescued, according to the newspaper.
But the blame for the avalanche doesn’t rest on any one person, Thompson explained.
“There are no fingers to be pointed from IPACs standpoint,” he said.
“Sometimes explosives and mitigation practices aren’t enough,” Thompson added. “Mother Nature has a mind of her own.”
A larger investigation into the tragedy is being conducted by the IPAC and Silver Mountain, and will be released someone in the “next couple of weeks,” the resort’s spokesman, Gus Colburn, told the Spokesman-Review.
The avalanche occurred in the Wardner Peak area of the mountain last Thursday. Silver Mountain Ski Patrol and volunteers immediately began searching with probes.
Victims 58-year-old Carl William Dick Humphreys and 48-year-old Scott Michael Parsons, who are both from Washington state, were skiing together on Wardner Peak before they were killed in the avalanche, according to The Spokesman-Review.
The third victim, 33-year-old neurosurgeon Molly Hubbard, was found on Thursday by a private air rescue crew based out of Montana, CNN reported.
“Molly Hubbard was a superlative physician and surgeon with exceptional judgment, technical skills and deep compassion for her patients and colleagues,” Dr. Nathan Selden, chair of the Oregon Health and Science University’s Department of Neurosurgery, said in a statement to The Spokesman-Review.
“She was also an extraordinary human being who was loved and valued by all who knew her,” he added. “Molly’s loss is unfathomable to her friends, her family, our community at OHSU, and to myself as her mentor. We will do our best to honor her extraordinary character.”
The Shoshone News-Press described the runs at Wardner Peak as “some of the more difficult areas” at the mountain as it is only accessible by foot or a specific chairlift.