Man Whose Family Says He Was 'Born to Ski' and Budapest Native Killed in Separate Colo. Avalanches

avalanche in Colorado - Rapid Creek, southwest of Marble
avalanche in Colorado - Rapid Creek, southwest of Marble

Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Two people died and four others escaped after getting caught in two different avalanches in Colorado over the weekend.

The avalanches — the first in the Rapid Creek area near Marble on Friday and the second near the Aspen Highlands Ski Resort in Aspen on Sunday — brings the total of avalanche deaths in Colorado to 9 during the 2022-23 season, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

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Following the Rapid Creek avalanche, 36-year-old Joel Shute of Glenwood Springs was found dead. Shute was discovered around 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon, according to the Gunnison County Sheriff's Office. One man was "transported by helicopter and the other by ambulance after self-extricating himself from the backcountry," according to authorities.

The two others caught in the avalanche were a skier and a splitboarder, according to the the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which reports that Shute was found buried about four feet deep in avalanche debris. "The avalanche released on an east-northeast aspect above treeline. It broke two to three feet deep, 300 to 500 feet wide, and ran 2400 vertical feet," the CAIC reports.

"Skiing was Joel's life. That was his life, it was his passion and what he wanted to do with his life," his brother Aaron Shute told KDVR.

He leaves behind girlfriend Ela Jaszczak, his brother Aaron, his parents, grandparents and his dog Bomba. Lisa Gerstner, Shute's mom, told KDVR that he was "born to ski."

"Joel is soul and he is OK wherever he is. Life goes beyond death and it's hardest on the people left behind," Gerstner said. "I know he's pure soul, he knew how to love and he's absolutely fine in the higher world."

Skiers hike up the ridge line of 12,393 ft. Highland Peak above Highland Bowl far left on March 17, 2017 in Aspen, Colorado.
Skiers hike up the ridge line of 12,393 ft. Highland Peak above Highland Bowl far left on March 17, 2017 in Aspen, Colorado.

Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Aspen, Colorado

Shute's family launched a GoFundMe for the late skier, with proceeds going toward a local search and rescue organization and associated emergency services.

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In the second deadly avalanche this weekend, which occurred in the Maroon Bowl area of Highland Peak, one person died with two additional skiers able to "self extricate."

Gábor Házas, 54, was caught in the avalanche around 1:27 PM local time Sunday, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office. The body of Házas, a Budapest native, was recovered by members of Moutain Rescue Aspen, with assistance from a helicopter and flight crew via the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, a release from the Pitkin County Coroner's Office reads.

In the release, Maroon Bowl is described as an "out of bounds ski area."

"Custody of the body was then transferred to the Pitkin County Coroner's Office upon the helicopter's arrival at the Aspen Pitkin County Airport," the release states. "The cause of death is pending autopsy. The manner of death is accident. The investigation by the Pitkin County Coroner's Office is ongoing."

As for the second avalanche, the CIAC reports that the three skiers "triggered and were caught in a large avalanche" on the "steep northwest-facing slope in the near treeline elevation band. The avalanche broke about 200 feet wide and ran about 2,000 vertical feet."

"Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of the people involved in this tragic accident. CAIC staff will visit the accident site on Monday, March 20, and we will publish a final report in the next week."