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Sandpoint man killed in avalanche in the Selkirks

Mar. 4—The body of a Sandpoint man killed in an avalanche in the Selkirk Mountains in North Idaho was recovered on Saturday.

Lance J. Gidley, 54, was caught in an avalanche while snowmobiling with a friend on Friday afternoon in Boundary County, according to a news release from the Boundary County Office of Emergency Management.

Gidley's friend was able to outrun the avalanche and immediately searched for Gidley, who was wearing an avalanche beacon, according to the release. When the friend found him, he was already dead and buried under 4 feet of snow.

The Boundary County Sheriff's Office, the county Search and Dive Rescue Team and a group of experienced snowmobilers recovered Gidley's body on Saturday.

The release said the operation took about nine hours because of the weather, terrain and continued avalanche risk.

The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center said in a preliminary report that the slide happened in the southern Selkirks, near the Pack River drainage northwest of Sandpoint. During the search, the center urged people to stay away from the Fault Lake trail, which begins off the Pack River Road.

Recent snow and high winds had prompted the center to issue an avalanche warning for the Selkirks last week, with danger ratings of "high" at all elevations on Friday. The range had received more than 3 feet of snow at elevations above 4,500 feet in the days leading up to the slide, according to the center's Friday forecast.

Forecasters also wrote that south winds were building "touchy slabs and cornices near ridgetops." They warned backcountry travelers to avoid all avalanche terrain and to be "patient in very low angle simple terrain."

The release from Boundary County said both snowmobilers were aware of the warning.

The sheriff's office and the avalanche center are still investigating the incident. Neither office responded to a request for comment before deadline.

Gidley worked for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest's fire management office as an engine captain, according to Patrick Lair, a spokesperson for the forest. Gidley was based out of the Bonners Ferry Ranger District.

An online fundraiser to support Gidley's wife and two children had raised more than $60,000 by Monday evening.

In the fundraiser's description, Gidley is described as an expert snowmobiler and skier with more than 25 years of experience in the Selkirk backcountry. It added that he had "shared his knowledge and love with many in our community."

Gidley's death is the second avalanche fatality in North Idaho this winter. In January, Corey Zalewski, of Spokane, was killed while skiing near Stevens Peak in Shoshone County.

A snowmobiler was also caught and killed in Washington on Friday on the northeast side of Darland Mountain west of Yakima, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center.

Nationwide, 10 people have died in avalanches this winter, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.