RIP Garry Allen Smith
“ Few skiers had more experience in the backcountry than Gary Smith.
The Eagle County mountaineer had skied Denali, explored some of Colorado’s most remote peaks and shepherded countless skiers into the backcountry with his in-depth gear reviews for Wildsnow.com and work at Cripple Creek Backcountry shop in Vail.
On Monday, the 37-year-old mountaineer died in an avalanche beyond the boundary of Beaver Creek ski area. He was the 12th person killed in an avalanche this season in Colorado, tying a grim high-mark set in 1992-93.
Smith and a partner were skiing in an area known as Sanctuary Chute, a steep northwest-facing slope below treeline. Skiers often access the backcountry zone by leaving Beaver Creek from the top of the Larkspur Express chairlift.
A report from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said his partner was able to locate and extricate Smith from the avalanche. Beaver Creek ski patrol and Vail Mountain Rescue group worked into the night Monday to recover Smith, who was a former ski patroller.
“He was one of the greats,” said a longtime friend who worked summers with Smith on a timber-clearing crew.
Smith is the fifth Eagle County local to die in an avalanche this season. Last month, three Eagle residents were killed in a slide near Ophir Pass outside Silverton and a Vail man was killed in an avalanche in East Vail, outside the Vail ski area boundary.”
Smith spent three years as the manager of Cripple Creek Backcountry’s shop in Lionshead and recently transitioned to an editor position at Wildsnow, where he penned trip reports and gear reviews. He was well respected as one of the most experienced backcountry skiers in the valley, with many years spent exploring the region’s most remote peaks. He also skied major lines on Alaska’s Denali in 2019 and volcanoes all over South America in 2018.
It rained almost every day on that trip to Chile and Patagonia, said Doug Stenclik, co-owner of Cripple Creek Backcountry and Wildsnow.
“He pushed us out every day. He was not going to waste a single moment in Patagonia feeling sorry for himself about the rain,” Stenclik said.
Stenclik said it’s impossible to count the number of people Smith introduced to uphill skiing.
“I don’t know if anyone in the valley pushed harder than him, but he was so happy in the trenches getting new people out on skis for their first time and he’d do it with such humility, you’d never guess he was this amazing skier,” Stenclik said. “He’d go from the biggest lines on Denali to skiing up a groomed run at Lionshead with a bunch of first-timers with the same excitement.”
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