BIG SKY – At approximately 6 p.m. on New Year’s Day, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s office was advised of an avalanche south and east of Big Sky in Onion Basin. Three snowmobiles from Bozeman, all males ages 46, 19 and 19 were in the area when two were caught in a large avalanche between 2:30 and 3 p.m. One snowmobiler was able to dig himself out, but Burton Kenneth Gibson, 46, was buried and killed in the slide, according to Sheriff Brian Gootkin.
Two other riders located Gibson using avalanche transceivers, uncovered him and attempted CPR for 40 minutes, Gootkin said. The survivors made their way out to the Portal Creek trailhead north of Big Sky and notified authorities. Because of darkness and severe avalanche conditions, Big Sky Search and Rescue did not attempt to access the area that night.
This morning, 18 rescuers from Gallatin County Search and Rescue and two forecasters from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center are working on the body recovery operation and conducting an investigation. Members will attempt to access the area by helicopter with back-up snowmobile teams in place to assist if necessary. Public access to the area is temporarily closed.
EBS reporters are on scene at SAR headquarters. Stand by for updates detailing recovery efforts.