A lot of people snowmobile the high country near Cooke City, MT. This happens every winter, usually more than once-

There is no real reason for this story except to remind people of the obvious. Avalanches and dead snowmobilers near Cooke City are as predictable as Old Faithful. The only question is what will the final tally be?

Snowmobiler killed in avalanche near Cooke City. AP

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Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

8 Responses to Your average winter day at Cooke City — dead snowmobiler

  1. avatar Virginia says:

    Any indication that they were “high marking” up there?

  2. avatar Save bears says:

    Not all sledders practice high marking, the winter is here, the snow is “stacking” one layer over another which makes for dangerous conditions.

    My condolences go out to the family.

    I am sure they would have mentioned if they were doing something that could be risky..High marking seems to be a hot point in these stories if it is happening, somehow placing the blame on the person who gets killed..

    Unfortunately in snow country, people die every single year, despite if their activities are risky or not..

  3. avatar Elk275 says:

    This is from the Billings Gazette at 5:00 p.m.

    A Billings snowmobiler killed in an avalanche on Sunday was swept about 150 feet downhill after the snow broke loose more than 600 feet above him.

    “They weren’t high markers. They were doing a lot of things right,” said Doug Chabot of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, who investigated the incident about five miles northwest of Cooke City on Monday. The avalanche occurred at about noon on the southeast face of Scotch Bonnet Mountain near Lulu Pass.

    The problem, which persists across the mountains of southwestern Montana, is that a weak layer of sugary snow is being triggered directly and indirectly by backcountry skiers and snowmobilers. The loose snow, which can act like slippery ball bearings when the snow is broken loose, is buried beneath a thick crust of hard snow.

    “We have weak snow everywhere,” Chabot said. “I’m expecting the danger to really spike.”

    The avalanche danger will be heightened by heavy snow that began falling in the mountains on Tuesday. The increased weight of the snowpack could naturally trigger avalanches, as well as increase the chances that backcountry travelers will set them off.

    Trapped by tree

    Scott Paul Herren, 33, was killed in the avalanche on Sunday. According to his MySpace page, he was a graduate of Huntley High School who enjoyed many outdoor sports with a group of close friends. He was riding with one of those friends, who was below him on the slope, when the avalanche struck.

    Chabot said the friend was behind Herren traveling uphill when he saw Herren get stuck in soft snow. The friend turned around and was traveling back down the slope when the leading edge of the avalanche caught up to him, lifting the rear of his snowmobile, he told Chabot. Luckily, he was able to outrun the slide.

    After the accident, the friend found where Herren was buried within about five minutes using an avalanche locator beacon, which both riders were wearing. But Herren’s abdomen was wrapped around a tree about 2 to 3 feet under the snow. Digging him out was made more difficult by the tree’s branches. Two other riders heard Herren’s friend yell for help and assisted, but it was about a half-hour before they reached Herren, Chabot said.

    Even before Herren was freed from the snow, the snowmobilers tried to revive him using CPR.

    Avalanche terrain

    The avalanche broke 2 feet deep and 75 to 100 feet wide, Chabot said. It slid about 1,000 feet down the slope, or 500 vertical feet. The slope angle was 35 degrees. Avalanche terrain is considered anything above 30 degrees.

    Others had been riding on the same slope before the avalanche broke loose. Where Herren got stuck was at the base of a much steeper slope.

    “As long as the slope is connected to a steeper slope, it’s dangerous,” Chabot said.

  4. My point was simple . . . snowmobiling near Cooke City is more dangerous. It’s like a story “another wreck at Deadman’s Curve.”

  5. avatar Save bears says:

    I agree Ralph,

    Snowmobiling is a dangerous sport…and people will continue to pursue it, it is a fact of life…I don’t know that Cooke is anymore dangerous, but it is indeed a dangerous area to practice this past time, and it costs people their lives…

  6. avatar dewey says:

    Snowmobiling above Cooke City: a self-regulating sport.

  7. avatar Erin Barca says:

    Avalanche Skier POV Helmet Cam Burial & Rescue in Haines, Alaska:

    (video)

  8. avatar Save bears says:

    Actually Dewey if you think about it, most outdoors sports in the western mountains could be considered self regulating, depending on who is participating..

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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