An avid snowmachine rider and former Minnesotan has become the winter’s first avalanche victim in Alaska.
Alaska State Troopers reported 29-year-old Tyler Kloos died Saturday after being buried in a Kenai Mountain snow slide only about two miles from the Snug Harbor Road access to Lost Lake near Cooper Landing.
Kloos was riding with a partner, Bryant Evans from Sterling, and both men were wearing avalanche beacons. A trooper dispatch said Evans witnessed the avalanche, used his beacon to locate Kloos and with help from “other people in the area” dug Kloos out.
“CPR was started,” the dispatch said. “A LifeMed helicopter responded and transported Kloos to a Soldotna area hospital. Kloos did not survive the incident.”
It is at this time unknown whether Kloos died from being buried or injuries suffered when the avalanche hit him. A 2009 study of 204 avalanche deaths over a period of 21 years concluded that about a quarter of all fatalities are due to trauma.
Avalanche beacons have saved the lives of dozens of people who would otherwise have died from asphyxiation after being buried in avalanches, but they offer no protection against trauma.
“Snowmobilers have become the fastest growing and probably the largest activity group exposed to avalanches in North America,” the study noted.
Of the six Alaskans killed in avalanches last year, four were snowmobilers. The other two were a backcountry skier and snowboarder.
Lost Lake is one of the most popular snowmachine areas on the Kenai. Kloos had ridden there many times before, according to a friend. He had moved to Kasliof, Alaska, after growing up in Winsted, Minn., where he was a noted high-school wrestler.
A big dump of fresh snow brought both snowmachine riders and danger to the Lost Lake area on Saturday. The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center offered words of warning on Saturday and underlined them again today.
“Dangerous avalanche conditions exist in many areas around Southcentral Alaska
including the Southern Kenai Mountains, Hatcher Pass and Anchorage Front Range,” the Center posted today.
“There was a confirmed snowmachine triggered avalanche accident in the Snug Harbor area yesterday that resulted in a fatality, limited information exists and we are gathering details currently. Our thoughts are with the family and friends.
“The Southern Kenai Mountains, including Snug Harbor and Lost Lake zones have dangerous avalanche conditions. This region is out of the advisory area but received 3- to 5-plus feet of snow in the past week and several avalanches have been observed.”