Report released on January avalanche that killed Mt. Charleston snowboarder

Man who died after avalanche at Mt. Charleston was skiing with friends when incident happened,...
Man who died after avalanche at Mt. Charleston was skiing with friends when incident happened, officials say
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 3:17 PM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - The report on an avalanche that killed a snowboarder Jan. 9 at Mt. Charleston was released March 14, giving more details on what happened.

Punan Zhou, 32, of Las Vegas died that day from injuries after getting caught in the avalanche. His manner of death was ruled an accident.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which works with the Department of Natural Resources, report is as follows:

At about 11:30 a.m. Jan. 9, the avalanche happened in a couloir (a steep, narrow gully) on Mummy Mountain, in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.

The descent, locally known as Mummichog couloir, was unintentionally triggered by Zhou which swept him off his feet and into the trees at the base of the chute.

A storm that day recorded 4 inches of new snow and about half an inch of Snow Equivalent Water prior to the avalanche.

Zhou, who was in a party of five that day, left the Deer Creek Trailhead around 8 a.m. They had scouted their planned route the day before and talked about how to avoid instability in the snowpack while avoiding a storm later in the afternoon.

First-hand accounts suggest the storm arrived earlier than the group expected and was in full swing by the time they reached the mountain. They dug a snowpit and talked about trying to climb the route instead.

At some point, the avalanche began when Zhou and another party member began to ski or snowboard down the path, while the others considered going back down the mountain the way they came.

As Zhou descended the mountain, snow began to sluff (slide) behind him. The other skier tried to reach Zhou but lost a ski. Zhou was swept up and taken down the mountain.

They began a transceiver search, and eventually found Zhou partially buried and wrapped around a tree, suffering severe injuries. The group tried to extricate Zhou and rescue authorities were contacted.

Despite all efforts, Zhou eventually succumbed to his injuries. Weather conditions and the terrain had to be navigated and the entire group returned to the Dee Creek trailhead around 6 p.m.

“Unfortunately, the arrival of the storm and the increase in avalanche hazard corresponded with the group’s arrival at the couloir. Although they seem to have recognized this, they made the fateful decision to move further into the terrain,” the report states.