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1 dead after avalanche on Crystal Mountain

Six skiers were swept up in an avalanche in a backcountry ski area in Silver Basin, according to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — One person is dead and five others were rescued after an avalanche on Crystal Mountain Saturday morning.

According to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department (PCSD), six skiers were swept up in an avalanche at Silver Basin in the backcountry ski area around 10:50 a.m. Silver Basin is located outside of the regular ski area boundary.

According to a representative from the Crystal Mountain Resort, the area was closed due to the storm moving through and there was no avalanche mitigation done on the area. 

All six skiers were wearing emergency beacons.

Five of the skiers pulled themselves to safety, the PCSD said. One of the six skiers was unresponsive, and life-saving efforts were unsuccessful. The skier who died was a 60-year-old man. His identity has not been released.

It's unknown if any of the other skiers suffered any injuries.

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Crystal Mountain Resort reported winds of up to nearly 100 mph at the summit Saturday morning. Due to the high winds, the Mount Rainier Gondola was not operating.

Only the beginner and intermediate lifts at Crystal Mountain were open Saturday, and only the lower mountain was lift serviced. The resort is maintaining normal operations as the avalanche occurred in the backcountry.

The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning for the Cascades until Sunday morning after a storm brought heavy snow to the mountains this week. Heavy snow is expected to continue for areas above 2,000 feet by Saturday night. Additional snow accumulations of 12-15 inches are possible by Sunday.

As of 8 a.m., at least 11 inches of snow had fallen at Crystal Mountain in the past 24 hours.

There is a “considerable” avalanche risk for the Olympics, Snoqualmie Pass, and the west and south slopes of the Cascades Saturday, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC). There is a “high” avalanche risk for the northern slopes of the Cascades. Click here to see the NWAC avalanche forecast map.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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