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Avalanche Near Isabel Pass Buries Skiers; One Escapes With Injuries, One Dies

Leah Glasscock-Sanders/UAF

Alaska State Troopers say a man was killed and his companion was injured when they were buried in an avalanche Saturday evening while skiing near Isabel Pass.

Alaska State Troopers tentatively identified the victim as 35-year-old Erik Peterson, of Delta Junction. Troopers say they got a report of the death around 6:30 p.m. Saturday from the victim’s skiing companion, 63-year-old Michael Hopper, of Fairbanks.

Hopper told Troopers that he and the victim had been buried by an avalanche of snow near Rainbow Ridge, also called Rainbow Mountain, near milepost 205 of the Richardson Highway. That’s about 10 miles north of Isabel Pass, about 60 miles south of Delta.

Troopers say Hopper reported that he managed to free himself after more than two hours of digging, and then began looking for his companion. He found his glove, then dug down further and found the body.

Hopper says he made his way to the highway, flagged down a passing motorist and called Troopers, who responded, along with emergency personnel from Fort Greely and Rural Deltana fire departments and a group of soldiers from the Army’s Black Rapids Training Site.

Lt. Col. Alan Brown, a U.S. Army-Alaska spokesman, says that, in response to Troopers request for help with the rescue, USARAK sent out a team of five soldiers and two civilians from Black Rapids, and a support team.

“They took off within about 30 minutes, prepared to assist the Alaska State Troopers in any way they possibly could,” Brown said. “About 30 minutes later, the commander there at Black Rapids sent out another team of about six soldiers to prepare to provide routine sustainment and logistics for the mission should it go on through the night.”

Hopper was transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital Saturday evening. A hospital nursing administrator says he was treated and released.

Trooper say the snow in the area where the victim and Hopper were skiing is unstable due to recent heavy snowfall, and is becoming more so. Scattered snow showers are forecast for today (Monday).

A Trooper news release issued Sunday says an attempt to recover the body will be made when the weather and conditions permit. The news release says the agency was still trying to positively identify Peterson as the victim.

A Trooper spokeswoman declined a request for more information Sunday .

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.