Final report on fatal Glacier National Park avalanche released


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Ben Parsons was a firefighter and paramedic in Whitefish. | Courtesy photo

KALISPELL, Montana — A backcountry skier killed in an avalanche in Glacier National Park was being careful and cautious when he hit with the slide that swept him away, according to the final report of the incident by the Flathead Avalanche Center.

The report states that Ben Parsons, 36, of Kalispell was testing the terrain for possible dangers while skiing on Stanton Mountain on Jan. 5. The avalanche danger was rated as ‘moderate’ that day.

But after weighting his skis to test the snowpack’s stability, he triggered an avalanche that released just above him, knocking him off his feet and carrying him an estimated 1,000 vertical feet down the slope.

Skiing companion Joel Shehan saw it happen and immediately started looking for Parsons. He could not get a signal from the emergency beacon but eventually heard a faint ‘yell’.

He found Parsons upside down and partially buried against a tree, critically injured but still conscious. He called 911 and warmed and cared for Parsons until the helicopter arrived.

Parsons a Whitefish firefighter, experienced backcountry skier and endurance athlete, died during the rescue.

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