MARBLE - It started as a shallow slide.
It was only approximately 8 to 10 inches deep, according to experts who are assembling a report on the avalanche Sunday afternoon near Marble that killed Frisco resident James Lindenblatt.
But farther down the slope, the avalanche stepped down into a deeper weak layer of that gave way. Lindenblatt, 37, was knocked off his feet and, moments later, buried 3 feet deep in snow.
Two friends who had skied the pitch above Raspberry Creek ahead of Lindenblatt watched him get swept up by the slide. They immediately followed with beacons and shovels. With the help of the tools, they located and were able to pull Lindenblatt from the snow within minutes, but it was too late.
"It was almost an immediate response," said Brian McCall, of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, who is investigating the incident. "He did not have a pulse, and he was not breathing when they did uncover him."
The two friends began CPR while a third skier skinned back up the slope to go for help.
The two men who tried to save Lindenblatt speculated he died in the turbulence of the slide, according to a statement from the Gunnison County Sheriff's Office. Avalanche victims fully buried in the snow can survive for more than an hour before the air supply runs out.
The avalanche was reported to the Summit County Sheriff's Office about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, but because of the weather and waning daylight, rescue teams were unable to get to the site until Monday morning.
Lindenblatt's friends waited with him for help to come until it began to get dark and the cold forced them to ski out, McCall reported.
McCall, an avalanche forecaster, put together a timeline of the incident from survivor interviews and photographs of the site where the slide took place.
Lindenblatt was a Frisco resident and asset manager for the Summit County road and bridge department. He helped keep track of all the county's physical assets, including the bike paths, supervisors said.
"He was an incredibly talented guy," assistant county manager Thad Noll said. Friends said it was Lindenblatt's love of the outdoors that brought him to Colorado from Texas more than a decade ago. During the summers, he was a competitive mountain biker who had reportedly completed the Colorado Trail Race, a 470-mile self-supported run through the Rocky Mountains gaining 65,000 feet in elevation. In the winter, he was an avid backcountry skier. Friends who had skied with him said he knew how to handle the risks associated with skiing out of bounds. Safety equipment including a beacon and shovel were found with his body, McCall said.
"He totally knew what to do," said Lindenblatt's friend Jeff Rank. "It could happen to any of us if you're out in the backcountry."
Friends remembered Lindenblatt as a good friend with a big heart.
"He would do anything for anyone," Rank said. "He was always there for you."