Skiing accidents on Mount Washington turn deadly

Skiing accidents on Mount Washington turn deadly

Tuckerman Valley is seen at left, about a mile from the summit of 6,288-foot Mount Washington, New Hampshire, Monday, May 4, 2015.

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

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The steep bowl of Tuckerman Ravine on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington has long made it a favorite spot for expert skiers and snowboarders looking for an adventure beyond the relative safety of the state’s ski areas.

But Saturday’s harsh, icy conditions made the bowl deadly.

Madison Saltsburg, 20, died after falling 600 vertical feet down the canyon in the afternoon, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Two other skiers were seriously injured after falling and colliding with rocks and ice. The service said a number of other falls occurred throughout the day and did not result in serious injuries.

A phone message to a Forest Service spokesman seeking information about Saltsburg was not immediately returned Sunday.

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The day of the incidents prompted a search effort that lasted hours in the dark as teams worked to rescue injured skiers and retrieve Saltsburg’s body from the mountain. Heavy, wet snow began falling on Saturday night and winds began to blow, forcing rescuers to continue fighting under the deteriorating conditions.

“Snow rangers and emergency personnel were there late last night. They are exhausted,” said Colleen Mainville, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.

Tuckerman Ravine is especially popular in the spring, when the sun begins to soften the snow. On some days, hundreds of skiers and snowboarders make the 3-mile hike to the valley, creating a festive atmosphere. From there it may take another hour to start the boots into the wall to get to the top.

But hazards β€” including open crevasses, avalanches, and rockfalls β€” have led to several deaths over the years.

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Saltsburg and her skiing companion encountered hard, icy snow surfaces due to cold temperatures and a lack of recent snowfall, the Forest Service said. There were also open cracks in the mountain, and conditions were unforgiving, the service said.

Forest Service rangers and a team from the Mount Washington Avalanche Center also responded to two other skiers who suffered serious injuries that were not life-threatening, Mainville said.

At 6,288 feet, Mount Washington is the tallest peak in the Northeast and is known for its changeable weather. It is the scene of frequent rescue operations.

Just the night before, on Friday, a 23-year-old hiker from Kentucky was rescued from the mountain after going off trail into Ammonoosuc Canyon, New Hampshire Fish and Game reported.

The agency said in a statement that the hiker “fell and hit his head and face, lost one of his sneakers, and eventually suffered hypothermia.”

β€œHe was given shoes, warm food and drink, proper winter gear and headlights. He was then taken to the track and then to the Cog Railway parking lot,” the agency said.

Another hiker rescued from Ammonoosuc Valley in February described his 11-hour ordeal to The Associated Press, admitting he made some bad decisions and was not prepared for his journey, and crediting rescuers with saving his life.

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