An avalanche in the Colorado Mountains over the weekend has search and rescue personnel looking for two missing skiers today in face of “very steep” terrain. The avalanche is also responsible for injuring at least three people.
The missing skiers were wearing emergency beacons that the search and rescue team was able to pick up on but it is unclear whether the skiers are still alive. The search and rescue teams say they face some very treacherous terrain and that it will take many hours to attempt to locate the missing skiers. Susan Matthews, a spokeswoman for Lake County Office of Emergency Management, said she hopes that daylight will help because once the sun goes down the search and rescue teams will no longer be able to work.
Search and rescue personnel set out Sunday morning in less than ideal conditions with high wind speeds of over 30 miles per hour. The area the skiers are thought to be in as an elevation of 11,000 feet in an area surrounded by 14,000 foot peaks. The search began on Saturday but was called off once nightfall came. Three people who were injured in the avalanche have broken bones and other non-life threatening injuries.
Authorities reported that the avalanche in the Colorado Mountains happened along a stretch of Highway 82 just southeast of Aspen, about a mile from the La Plata Gulch trail head. They said that the avalanche occurred near the top of a ridge however it did not reach the highway itself. This comes in a series of avalanches that have happened just this week in not only Colorado, but in Utah and Oregon as well. So far, six people have been killed due to the avalanches. Authorities are contributing the recent avalanches to the recent heavy storms in the area creating a large amount of snowfall.
The two missing skiers were part of a group of seven who got lost in the back country east of Aspen on Saturday morning. The names of the party have not been released by authorities however one of the injured skiers has been released from the hospital this morning.
The search and rescue teams have their work cut out for them. Weather experts are issuing warnings about very dangerous avalanche conditions not only in the Colorado area but all along the mountain range from the New Mexico border all the way north the Wyoming. The conditions appear to be a worst case scenario setting; slides taking down very old trees, old mining buildings that have stood for years and roadways being buried up to twenty feet in snow. Experts say that the list is as “complicated as it can get” and are warning people to stay away from the back country areas.
This latest avalanche in the Colorado Mountains, that has left three injured and two still missing, is just one in a string of deadly snow slides that has claimed the lives of six people this week alone, a stern reminder that Mother Nature is unforgiving and that the back country is a very dangerous place to be.
By Adam Stier