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Man killed in Crystal Mountain avalanche was a 66-year-old from Issaquah

Robert Weisel died from blunt force injuries when he and five other skiers were caught in an avalanche in a backcountry area in Silver Basin.

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — The Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office identified the man killed in an avalanche on Crystal Mountain over the weekend as a 66-year-old from Issaquah.

Robert Weisel died from blunt force injuries when he and five other skiers were caught in an avalanche in a backcountry area in Silver Basin on Saturday, according to the examiner's office. Four of the six skiers were buried. Three had to dig themselves out. 

The other five skiers have not been identified.

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

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Five of the skiers pulled themselves to safety, according to the sheriff's department. Weisel was found unresponsive.

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.

Paul Baugher, the former head of the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol and director of the Northwest Avalanche Institute, said Saturday's avalanche was storm driven. There was a slab of snow sitting on a weaker layer of snow. Everything would appear fine until the avalanche was triggered.

The avalanche risk for the day was rated a three on the five-point Avalanche Danger Scale, which means there's a "considerable" risk for an avalanche. NWAC representatives said that is when most avalanche accidents occur.

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. Only lower lifts were operating. The resort maintained normal operations as the avalanche occurred in the backcountry.

Peter Dale, Crystal mountain director of operations, said he spoke with the group of skiers. They did a lot of things right, he said, including bringing the proper equipment, such as beacons, as well as having proper training. They also checked the avalanche forecast for the area, he said.

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