A backcountry avalanche Wednesday triggered by three out-of-bounds skiers from the Lookout Pass Ski Area seriously injured one of them and prompted helicopter rescues of him and a fellow skier.
The Spokane men were caught by the snow slide in the St. Regis Basin on the Montana side of the pass.
Mineral County Sheriff Tom Bauer said his office received a call from Shoshone County in Idaho shortly before 3 p.m. advising him of the avalanche victims. Bauer said the most seriously injured of the three suffered a compound fracture in one of his legs and a second man was buried to his neck.
Mineral County Search and Rescue and Two Bear Air were immediately activated. Bauer said the quick response by Two Bear, a helicopter support company from Whitefish, may have saved the first man’s life.
“They were able to fly within minutes, rescued the one in bad shape with a compound fracture and flew him to the Lookout Pass parking lot,” Bauer said.
From there, he was transferred to a hospital in Kellogg, Idaho, and eventually to Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane.
Bauer said the helicopter returned to the avalanche scene and flew out the second man, who was also hospitalized. By then, bad weather had rolled in and the Two Bear team was unable to reach the third man, who wasn’t seriously hurt. Search and rescue volunteers from Mineral and Shoshone counties used snowmobiles to retrieve him.
Avalanche danger is listed as "high" by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center, which covers the basin.