Hatcher Pass danger

A skier hits the slopes of Hatcher Pass during a recent winter. Authorities said a snowmachiner died after getting buried beneath an avalanche in the pass on Saturday, Jan. 2.

UPDATE (7 p.m. Sunday): Troopers on Sunday identified the dead snowmachiner as Dashiell Erickson, 35, of Anchorage. Erickson's body was recovered on Sunday.

Original story:

WASILLA — According to the Alaska State Troopers, an avalanche buried and killed a snowmachiner Saturday evening on the Willow side of Hatcher Pass.

The Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center first reported the avalanche on the western side of the pass at 8:30 p.m. Saturday on its website.

In a post announcing the tragedy, the center said the man died after he was buried beneath about six feet of snow. The center said the man was equipped with an avalanche beacon and was dug out by his companions — but not in time to save his life.

Troopers later confirmed that account in an online dispatch. According to the report, the man was traveling with two other riders when he was swept off the trail by the avalanche. Due to blizzard-like conditions and fading light, the man's body was not able to be immediately recovered. Troopers said they will assess the situation Sunday morning along with park rangers and the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group to decide how to proceed with a recovery.

The man's name was not immediately released.

The death is the second recreational tragedy this winter in the pass. In November, Dr. Liam Walsh disappeared while on a solo ski trip during dangerous avalanche conditions. Walsh, of Wasilla, was last seen near the Independence Mine parking lot and is presumed to have died in an avalanche. Walsh's family held a memorial service for the 33-year-old in December in his home state of New York. 

The Talkeetna Mountains have seen heavy snow this winter, but also intermittent high winds and warm temperatures that have made for potentially dangerous and rapidly-changing snow conditions in the popular winter sports playground.

The center added an advisory saying conditions would remain dangerous in the area into Sunday:

"THE AVALANCHE HAZARD WILL INCREASE TONIGHT AND TOMORROW WITH WINDS. Strong SE winds in the 20’s mph and gusting to 54 mph continued to aggravate the avalanche problems today."

This is a developing story; check back for updates.

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