Backcountry Skier Killed in Avalanche in Ammonoosuc Ravine

by Gino Devaney on February 4, 2021

Sargent’s Purchase – Members of NH Fish & Game’s Advanced Search & Rescue Team along with US Forest Service personnel and volunteers from Mountain Rescue Services (MRS) located the body of a missing backcountry skier in Ammonoosuc Ravine at approximately 6:00 p.m. Wednesday night.  The rescue crew had been searching for the skier since early afternoon.

The skier, whose name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, was reported missing by his friends Tuesday night after failing to return home or answer repeated calls.  Initial reports indicated that the skier had planned to ski either Ammonoosuc Ravine drainage or Monroe Brook drainage on Monday.

After the missing person’s report was initiated, a search of multiple trailhead parking lots Tuesday night was conducted in an attempt to locate the skier’s vehicle to confirm he was still in the backcountry. The search that night failed to locate his vehicle. His vehicle was ultimately discovered Wednesday morning in the snow filled Ammonoosuc Ravine parking lot.

When his vehicle was located a search effort was initiated and rescue personnel hiked up into both the Ammonoosuc Ravine drainage and the Monroe Brook drainage despite potential avalanche danger in an effort to locate the skier.  The  searchers spent several hours scouring both drainages, until an avalanche beacon signal was detected at approximately 4:30 p.m.  The crew had to dig down approximately 13 feet of packed snow and debris before ultimately discovering the body of the missing skier.  Several more hours ensued extracting the body.  The search party made it down to the Base Station parking lot at approximately 9:00 p.m.

Backcountry skiing is a risky venture that should only be attempted by the most prepared and experienced skiers.  This skier did have years of experience and was prepared, which was evident by his use of an avalanche transceiver, but skiing in avalanche conditions is never recommended and can be extremely dangerous.  Without the transceiver, it is possible the skier’s body most likely would not have been located until the snow completely melted in the spring.