Backcountry skier dies amid icy conditions on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington

Backcountry skier dies amid icy conditions on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington

MEREDITH, N.H. — The steep bowl at Tuckerman Ravine on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington has long made it a favorite spot for expert skiers and snowboarders who are seeking adventure beyond the comparative safety of the state’s ski areas.

But hard and icy conditions on Saturday turned the bowl deadly, with temperatures in the early afternoon reaching the low 20s and getting colder as the day progressed, according to National Weather Service data.

Madison Saltsburg, 20, died after falling about 600 vertical feet down the ravine in the afternoon, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Two other skiers suffered serious injuries after falling and hitting rocks and ice. And there were a number of other falls witnessed throughout the day which didn’t result in serious injuries, the service said.

A telephone message to a forest service spokesperson seeking information about Saltsburg wasn’t immediately returned Sunday.

The day of accidents prompted search efforts that continued for hours in the dark as teams worked to rescue the injured skiers and remove Saltsburg’s body from the mountain. Heavy, wet snow started to fall Saturday night and winds began to pick up, forcing the rescuers to battle on through the worsening conditions.

“The snow rangers and emergency personnel were up there late last night. They’re exhausted,” said Colleen Mainville, a spokesperson for the forest service.

Tuckerman Ravine is particularly 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 ravine, resulting in a festive atmosphere. From there it can take another hour to kick boot steps in the wall to get to the top.

But risks — including open crevasses, avalanches and rocks — have resulted in several deaths over the years.

The forest service said Saltsburg and her skiing companion encountered hard and icy snow surfaces due to cold temperatures and a lack of recent snowfall. There were also open crevasse holes on the mountain, the service said, and conditions were unforgiving.

Forest service rangers and a team from the Mount Washington Avalanche Center also responded to two other skiers who suffered severe injuries that weren’t life-threatening, Mainville said.

At 6,288 feet Mount Washington is the tallest peak in the Northeast and is notorious for its fickle weather. It is the sight of frequent rescues.

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

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

“He was given boots, food, warm drink, proper winter gear, and a headlamp. He was then escorted back to the trail and then to the Cog Railway parking lot,” the agency said.

Another hiker who was rescued from the Ammonoosuc Ravine in February described his 11-hour ordeal to The Associated Press, acknowledging he had made some poor decisions and was underprepared for his hike and crediting rescuers with saving his life.

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