Avalanches kill two Michigan men in western U.S.

Two men with Michigan ties have been killed in the last month in avalanches out West amid reports of dangerous conditions resulting from severe weather and heavy snow.

Greg Stanczak, a 56-year-old Michigan man, died after a Feb. 17 avalanche swept eight snowmobilers downslope in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming near the town of Alpine, close to the Idaho border, according to the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Stanczak, who was visiting the area with family, was buried in avalanche debris, Lincoln County Coroner Dain Schwab said.

Greg Stanczak, 56, of Ironwood, died while snowmobiling in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.

On Jan. 30, a 57-year-old man who grew up in Michigan was buried in an avalanche in a backcountry area known as “Square Top,” according to KUTV in Salt Lake City.

Kurt Damschroder of Park City, Utah, was located and dug out by a friend, who unsuccessfully performed CPR. Damschroder was born in Toledo and grew up in Petoskey; he was a 1986 University of Michigan graduate, according to his obituary.

Damschroder’s body was not recovered until the day after the avalanche due to the risk for more avalanches, but after completing mitigation efforts they reached him.

Kurt Damschroder

Avalanches in the United States have claimed 32 lives in the 2020-21 season, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Based in Boulder, Colo., the center is a program within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. It provides backcountry avalanche forecasts in Colorado and avalanche education. It also tracks avalanche fatalities.

Skiers account for a majority of the season’s deaths, 15, the center reported. Avalanches have also killed eight snowmobilers, four snowboarders and four hikers, it said.

Avalanche forecasters throughout the Rocky Mountain region say backcountry users are facing the most hazardous conditions in a decade. Successive waves of new snow have added weight and stress on a weak, granular base layer of snow that is extremely susceptible to breaking apart.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center estimates an average of 27 people have died in the United States each winter over the last 10 years in avalanches. Colorado leads states in the number of deaths from avalanches in that period with 59, followed by. Washington with 34. Nevada has the fewest, one.

In the 2019-20 season, there were 23 deaths from avalanches, the center said. The last decade’s deadliest season was 2009-10 in which 36 people lost their lives.

The Associated Press contributed.