Two Stearns County men killed in south-central Montana avalanche

Jesse Thelen, 43, of Paynesville, and Carl Thelen, 39, from St. Martin, were killed in an avalanche Monday, while snowmobiling in south-central Montana.

FSA Crash report

Two snowmobilers from Stearns County, Minnesota, were killed Monday, Dec. 27, in an avalanche in south-central Montana.

The men were in a party of eight Minnesota snowmobilers who were in their second days of riding on Scotch Bonnet Mountain, north of U.S. Highway 212 near Cooke City, Montana, according to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. The two victims got stuck on the southeast face of Scotch Bonnet. Two other members of the party rode their sleds up to assist the stuck snowmobilers and the avalanche was triggered soon after.

The victims were Jesse Thelen, 43, of Paynesville, and Carl Thelen, 39, from St. Martin, Park County Coroner Al Jenkins told the Livingston (Mont.) Enterprise newspaper. The men were cousins, according to numerous posts on Jesse Thelen's Facebook page.

The avalanche was 4-5 feet deep, ran 300 feet wide and 500 feet vertically, and buried the victims under 4-5 feet of debris, according to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.

Riders in their group used their rescue equipment to dig the victims out of the snow, according to the avalanche center. Park County Sheriff's Search and Rescue then took the two men off the mountain.


Over the past decade, an average of 27 people died in avalanches each winter in the United States, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. So far this winter, six people have been killed by avalanches in the U.S. In the 2020-21 season, there were 37 deaths attributed to avalanches.

A fundraiser has been set up for Carl Thelen. Go to and search for "The Passing of Carl Thelen."

Related Topics: ACCIDENTS
Kelly Boldan has been editor of West Central Tribune and in Willmar, Minnesota, since October 2001. He joined Forum Communications Co. in November 1998 as editor of the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer.
Boldan can be reached via email: or telephone: 320-214-4331.
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