Aspen-area avalanche victim ID’d as local carpenter |

Aspen-area avalanche victim ID’d as local carpenter

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The backcountry skier who died Tuesday in an avalanche south of Aspen has been identified as local carpenter John Joseph Kelley.

According to Pitkin County coroner Dr. Steve Ayers, Kelley died of suffocation. Multisystem trauma was a contributing factor. He was 60 years old.

Kelly’s body was recovered Wednesday morning. It was found by a canine search team in the debris field of a large avalanche near the Lindley Hut.

About 18 members of Mountain Rescue Aspen, plus three canine search teams and a helicopter responded as part of the search and recovery effort. Mountain Rescue alerted the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday that the skier’s body had been found.

The body was recovered from the debris field of a large slide, described by Mountain Rescue as about 150 yards long and 20 to 30 feet wide at the bottom. The body was airlifted from the site by DBS Helicopters and taken to Aspen Valley Hospital for examination by the coronor. Kelley’s death was ruled accidental.

He was reported missing Tuesday by others in his party of eight. The avalanche occurred at about 4 p.m. Authorities said the seven other skiers in the group tried but failed to find Kelley, and managed to get through to the sheriff’s office with a 911 call at about 6 p.m.

The group was made up of experienced backcountry skiers, according to authorities.

The hut is part of the Alfred A. Braun Hut System. It’s located at an elevation of about 10,480 feet, about 16 miles south of Aspen, in the rugged Elk Mountains.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center rated the avalanche danger in the Aspen area as considerable on Wednesday, down from a high rating on Monday. On Tuesday, the rating was considerable at most aspects and elevations, but was still rated high on south- to east-facing slopes.

Also Tuesday, a snowboarder triggered an avalanche on Richmond Ridge, off the back of Aspen Mountain, according the CAIC report. Rescue crews brought avalanche dogs to the site, but no one was found in the debris. The slide was more than a foot deep and about 100 feet wide, according to the report.