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Community rallies to help snowmobiler's family

by EMILY BONSANT
Hagadone News Network | March 5, 2024 1:00 AM

UPPER PACK RIVER — A GoFundMe campaign has been created for the family of a Sandpoint man killed in a Friday avalanche.

Lance J. Gidley, 54, of Sandpoint, was killed when he was caught in an avalanche Friday afternoon in the remote area of Boundary County. Searchers recovered the body Saturday after the snowmobiler was caught in an avalanche in the upper mountainous area of Pack River near Hunt Lake.

A group of experienced riders who were familiar with the area, in cooperation with Boundary County Sheriff and the County Search and Dive Rescue Team, recovered Gidley’s remains, which were received by the county coroner around 8 p.m. Saturday, Andrew O’Neal, Boundary County public information officer, said in a press release. 

Since its first 24 hours, the GoFundMe campaign raised more than $72,000 of its $75,000 goal, an increase from its original goal of $50,000. The campaign was created for Gidley’s family with the expenses they will face in the coming months and years, campaign organizer Christa Landwehr said on the crowdsourcing website.

“Lance Gidley was doing what he loved, exploring the mountains of the Upper Pack when he was caught in an avalanche and lost his life,” Landwehr said. “Lance had over 25 years of experience in the Selkirk backcountry and has shared his knowledge and love with many in our community.”

Landwehr said Gidley was an expert snowmobiler, skier, and mountain biker, passing those passions along to his wife Cathy and his two children.

Cathy Gidley has lived in Sandpoint for more than 20 years, helping countless youth learn to ski as a youth ski coach for Schweitzer Alpine Racing School over the past 10-plus years. She also has given countless hours to local soccer clubs, helping all who need it.

“Cathy is the kind of person who goes out of her way to help. She never asks what needs to be done, she just sees the need and gets the job done,” Landwehr said.

Now, Landwehr said the family needs the community’s help. 

“Let’s come together for the Gidley family as they would come together for us,” she added. “Know that we, her friends and family, will be grateful for any contribution.”

It took about nine hours to recover the man’s body due to the rugged terrain, challenging weather, and the high risk of further avalanche, Boundary County officials said.

Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer commended the professional searchers and volunteers, some of whom were friends of the deceased man.

“My sincere condolences to his family and friends. I’m glad we were able to provide them some closure by completing this recovery today. The recovery team did a great job and the Chaplains Corps was really helpful to the family,” Kramer said.

Gidley had been snowmobiling Friday afternoon with a friend when they encountered an avalanche. The friend was just able to outrun the avalanche on his snowmobile and immediately returned to search for Gidley, who was wearing an avalanche beacon. However, the man was found dead under 4 feet of snow.

The incident is still being investigated by the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office and the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center in Sandpoint. Avalanche warnings were in effect for the area at the time and were known to the riders. No one else was injured in the avalanche.

The GoFundMe can be found under “Cathy Gidley Family” at bit.ly/48DNaOo.