According to Jackson County Sheriff Scott Fischer, the two men were skiing in a dangerous area.
“It’s pretty steep, rugged terrain,” Fischer said. “It’s hard to get to and it’s bare snow conditions. You gotta be experienced in backcountry skiing.”
Fischer speculated that the skiing motion from the two individuals caused the avalanche. He said the Jackson County Sheriff’s department received a 911 phone call at approximately 1:15 p.m. that reported an avalanche had occurred in a bowl and that two skiers were traversing down the bowl.
“We launched search and rescue and located one individual who was deceased,” Fischer said.
After the search and rescue team found Joe’s deceased body, they set to work to find the body of White. Fischer confirmed that White had an avalanche beacon activated to help the team pinpoint his location. However, his recovery was not so easy.
“We then tried to locate another individual that was buried in the avalanche and it was approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours later that we did locate Mr. White,” Fischer said. “He did survive and we took him out by air. He was flown to the Medical Center of the Rockies and he is currently doing much better.”
Despite the devastating news, Jim said the family was comforted by the fact that Joe died doing what he loved to do.
“Joe was defined by all the stuff he did,” Jim said. “He was a skier, a surfer, a smoke jumper.”
Jim stated that his brother worked as a smoke jumper for Great Basin Smoke Jumpers based out of Boise, Idaho. As a smoke jumper, Joe would parachute into wildfire safe zones to attempt to fight the fires from the inside.
“He was working to save money to pay for school,” Jim said. “When he got to Colorado State he found his passion within the forestry department.”
Fischer said that White is still recovering but is set to be released from the medical center later this week. He added that they were unsuccessful in their attempts to find the dog.
“We tried and we tried and we tried,” he said. “My hope is that the dog is marching somewhere in the forest we haven’t looked yet. But I’m fairly certain the dog also perished.”
The dog belonged to Joe and his girlfriend, Jim said.
Jim said that even with the negative image this tragedy conveys, he and his family would not give up their active lifestyle that his brother lived to the fullest.
“This doesn’t mean we should just sit on our asses and not do anything anymore,” Jim said.
Nulty said Joe could become instant friends with anyone he’d meet.
“He was constantly singing and dancing,” she said. “His light was so infectious. To say that he touched everyone he met is an understatement.”
Nulty said that when one of his friends from Great Basin contacted the company to determine who to contact about Joe’s passing, the man on the line said that would be hard since Joe had so many friends.
“He touched everybody,” Nulty said. “His life made an impact on my life too. His body may be gone, but his light remains.”
Update 1 p.m.
Jim Philpott, the oldest brother of Joe Philpott, who died in an avalanche near Cameron Pass Saturday, related the adventurous life his brother lived.
“He was defined by all the stuff he did in life,” Jim said. “He was a skier, a surfer, a smoke jumper. He was very easy-going.”
Jim said his family was informed of his brother’s death around midnight March 2.
“It was tough for sure to hear that,” he said. “But the fact that he was out doing what he loved to do really helps.”
Jim said that his younger brother worked as a smoke jumper for over 4 years. Jim called him “a veteran at 26.”
Joe is survived by two older brothers, Jim and Michael, and an older sister, Olivia.
Jim said that the dog reported to be with Joe and Alex White was in fact Joe’s dog. The dog’s condition is currently unknown.
Despite the terrible fate of their younger brother, Jim said his family, who is experienced in back country skiing, is consoled by the fact that Joe was out “doing what he loved to do.”
“Back country skiing is so uncontrollable,” Jim said. “We all know the risks, it’s all very familiar to us. But any of us would kill for a death like that.”
Jim also said that his brother’s death would not discourage his family from being active.
“This conveys a lot of bad things, but it doesn’t mean that we should just sit on our asses and not do anything,” he said.
Update 10:35 a.m.
According to Hooker, the CSU student killed in an avalanche near Cameron Pass this weekend was junior forestry major, Joseph Kitchin Philpott, originally from Durango, Colo.
Update 10:30 a.m.
A CSU-Fort Collins student was killed in an avalanche near Cameron Pass on Saturday, according to the Coloradoan. Officials said the dog he and his companion were skiing with apparently triggered the very large slide.
The man’s identity has not yet been released publicly but Jackson County Coroner George Crocket confirmed the man was a Colorado State University student, the Coloradoan reported. The man and his companion were skiing in the backcountry near the Nokhu Crags in an area known as the Paradise Bowl. Crocket said the slide killed one man on scene and the other was flown by helicopter to Medical Center of the Rockies. The dog’s fate is currently unknown.