A backcountry skier from Delta Junction was killed Saturday in an avalanche in the Rainbow Mountains near milepost 205 of the Richardson Highway, according to Alaska State Troopers.
The avalanche was first reported to Fairbanks troopers at 6:21 p.m. on Saturday, when a caller said that Michael Hopper, 63, of Fairbanks had been skiing with Erik Peterson, 35, in the Rainbow Mountains when the pair heard a "whoomp" sound from the snow 20 feet above them, according to a troopers dispatch posted online Sunday.
The two men were caught in an avalanche, but Hopper was able to dig himself out after two to three hours of effort, according to the dispatch. He then found the other skier's glove and dug until he found Peterson's body, the dispatch said.
After discovering the body, "Hopper then made his way to the highway to flag down a passing motorist and was able to use the motorist's phone to contact troopers," the dispatch said.
Troopers have "tentatively identified" Peterson as the man killed in the avalanche, but said Sunday they were still working to recover his body, citing deteriorating, "widely unstable" conditions in the area.
"AST is evaluating weather and avalanche conditions prior to putting resources out to conduct a potential body recovery," the dispatch said.
Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters declined to provide an update on recovery efforts Sunday evening.
Correction: Alaska State Troopers originally identified the man killed in the avalanche as Eric Peterson; this story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing