Montrose Fresh
Montrose Fresh
Dec 23, 2020
Montrose Fresh: Avalanches Claimed Three Lives In One Weekend
Play • 6 min

Good morning and welcome to Montrose Fresh, from The Montrose Daily Press. It’s Wednesday December 23rd and we’re here with local news, events, announcements, and more that matter to us here in Western Colorado. Today, avalanches have claimed three lives in the region in just one weekend.

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Before we begin, an update on Colorado sports.

Student-athletes across Colorado received some welcome news on Monday.

The Colorado High School Activities Association or CHSAA announced it has secured variance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and state health officials to move up the winter sports timeline.

Practice will now start on January 18th, and competition will begin on January 25th.

Details regarding the implementation of each sport will be shared with athletic directors and coaches through a series of virtual meetings, which begin in early January.

This announcement follows protests from more than 60 high school athletes, coaches and parents, who last week chanted “Let us play!” outside of the  CHSAA.

Now, our feature story.

Three people were swept away and killed in two avalanches last weekend. And it’s prompting more warnings about unstable snowpack.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s Ethan Green spoke with 9 News about the incidents and the conditions recently:

On the 18th, an avalanche buried and killed a man near Crested Butte. The Gunnison Country Times identified the victim as Jeff Schneider. Schneider worked for 35 years as a ski patroller at Crested Butte.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s report, Schneider was skiing the “Friendly Finish”. Beforehand, he chatted about his plans with two other skiers on the top of the ridge. Those two people skied down and returned to their snowmobile, but became concerned when they saw Schneider hadn’t returned to his.

So the pair snowmobiled to an area where they could assess Schneider’s planned descent route and saw a fresh avalanche. They skied to the site and used a transceiver to locate Schneider, then dug him out, but he was deceased.

That same day, the 18th, Durango residents Dr. Jeff Paffendorf and Albert Perry died in an avalanche in San Juan County.

Friends of the two men ultimately located their bodies late Saturday.

They were part of a larger group skiing in the backcountry on Saturday. Apparently the group members had communicated plans and coordinates, but Paffendorf and Perry failed to arrive.

All three victims in the two avalanches had extensive backcountry experience.

This year, avalanche experts warned that snow conditions have been weak and prone to creating slide conditions that can catch anyone unaware.

Anna Debattiste gave the same warning:

That means people who are accustomed to going to a certain area for a certain backcountry activity this time of year can encounter very different conditions than they have in the past.

So, make sure to check the forecast before heading out, at and have proper equipment, including a locator beacon/transceiver, probe pole and shovel. You should also always share planned routes and intended timeframes with at least one other person.

Before we go, here are a few other things going on in Montrose that you should know about.

A man who briefly served as Ouray County’s undersheriff and a former Delta Police Department officer are among those who cannot ever be certified to work as a peace officer again in Colorado.

An Olathe-area man died Monday, after the tractor portion of the semi he was performing routine maintenance on fell on top of him.

Lauren Boebert, representative-elect for the 3rd Congressional District, has announced her senior staff members.

That’s all for today, thank you for listening! For more information on any of these stories visit us at

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