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Friday
Dec272013

Snowboarder Playing 'Russian Roulette' on Slope Dies in Avalanche

ABC News(JACKSON, Hole, Wyo.) -- A snowboarder, who was playing "Russian roulette" on the slopes outside a Wyoming mountain resort's boundary, has died in an avalanche he triggered while heading downhill.

Michael Kazanjy, 29, died Thursday in the first fatal avalanche of the season.  Kazanjy was at Wyoming's Jackson Hole Mountain Resort with five others when he began a downhill descent and, according to officials, set off the avalanche.

"It was a big slide," Bob Comey, director of the Bridger Teton Avalanche Center, said.  "It happened in a cliff area.  It was a very steep slope."

Fellow skiers, including a doctor, tried CPR to save Kazanjy, who was outside the resort boundary when he died. Kazanjy was in the backcountry of the area where the thrills are bigger -- as are the risks.

"It's kind of like Russian roulette when you get on this slope. If six people do it and no one dies, then 50 people do it and no one dies, people get kind of complacent," Comey said.

In a statement released overnight, Kazanjy's brother said, "Mike lived life with a full heart for those around him, and they for him.  He loved his family, his Cal Bears, his skiing buddies and San Francisco.  My parents were lucky enough to spend this Christmas with Mike in Jackson this past week, and are grateful for it. This tragic loss at a time of year when families draw close to each other is a reminder to cherish the time we have with our loved ones. Reach out to yours and tell them you love them."

On average, 28 people die every year in avalanches, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center in Boulder.

Thursday's accident is the second treacherous backcountry avalanche this week.

In the backcountry near Vail, Colo., Sunday, Davis LaMair watched his brother, Edwin, get buried alive.  The experienced skier could barely breathe as he was cemented in snow for 10 minutes.

"Once I started sliding headfirst down the hill it sunk in that I was in a big avalanche, and this was really happening and I might die," Edwin LaMair told ABC News.  "I was trying to swim as hard as I could to get to the top.  I was immensely relieved when I realized that my face was above the surface, and I could breathe."

The threat of avalanches isn't only in the backcountry areas. An avalanche on one of the main ski runs at a Utah resort Monday briefly trapped three people.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio