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Skier killed by avalanche near Big Sky had "no room for error" - KBZK.com | Continuous News | Bozeman, Montana

Skier killed by avalanche near Big Sky had "no room for error"

BOZEMAN - A late season avalanche fatality near Big Sky has extended the normal window of operations for the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center (GNFAC). 

On Saturday, Jens Hagen Anderson, 28, of Bozeman, was killed while skiing Beehive Peak with three others. The Gallatin County Sheriff said Anderson triggered a slide that swept him over the face of a cliff and he died from traumatic injuries. 

Avalanche experts with the GNFAC tried to access the site of the slide on Sunday, but were forced to turn back due to gusty winds. Doug Chabot and Mark Staples were able to make it in to Beehive Peak Monday and filmed the video above. 

We spoke with forecaster Eric Knoff on Monday morning who said they are working to piece together how this happened to a seasoned skier when avalanche danger was low.

"It did catch us a little off-guard," said Knoff. "It has been such a quiet and fairly benign winter and right when you think you're out of the woods, you can be surprised by an accident like this."

Knoff said although avalanche danger was low, the terrain in the Hanging Garden area where Anderson and his friends were skiing Saturday is really unforgiving.

"There's essentially no room for error," said Knoff. "Unfortunately, they triggered a small slide, that anywhere else wouldn't be a big deal but the terrain magnified the consequences significantly and it ended badly."

Knoff said Anderson and his skiing partners were experienced in the backcountry, had avalanche training and were essentially doing everything right.

"Unfortunately you can make tons of good decisions which can be offset by one bad one," said Knoff. "It's a great reminder that spring is a really fickle time in the mountains and weather and snowpack can change rapidly."

This is the second avalanche fatality in Montana during the 2014-2015 season and the ninth nationwide. Last year, 35 people across the country were killed by avalanches; six of them in Montana. 

Knoff said it's been an unusual year for avalanche forecasting with snowpack remaining stable for the much of the season and slide danger staying low. Also out of the ordinary is the way these two fatal accidents have book-ended the GNFAC's advisories. On November 26, 2014, a snowmobiler was buried and killed in a slide near Cooke City at the very beginning of the advisory season, and now skier Anderson died the day before the GNFAC was planning to issue its last forecast. 

"Never be complacent in the mountains," said Knoff. "It's a good reminder to never let your guard down."

Knoff said they will be working a few extra days to wrap up their investigation of the incident at Beehive Peak and plan to issue their last advisory on Wednesday. 

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