GEORGETOWN, COLO.: Five snowboarders were killed Saturday afternoon after apparently triggering a backcountry avalanche on Colorado’s Loveland Pass, authorities said.
Search and rescue crews recovered the bodies several hours after the slide, which was 600 yards wide and eight feet deep, said Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger.
A sixth snowboarder caught in the avalanche was rescued. That person’s condition wasn’t immediately known.
Searchers from Clear Creek County, Summit County, an Alpine search and rescue team and Loveland ski resort located the bodies, Krueger said.
The Colorado Department of Transportation closed U.S. Route 6, which crosses the Continental Divide near the scene of the avalanche, to facilitate the search. The pass is heavily traveled by skiers visiting nearby Arapahoe Basin ski resort.
The bodies were taken to the Clear Creek coroner’s office. The victims’ identities weren’t immediately known.
Krueger said authorities were “pretty sure” the snowboarders triggered the avalanche, which he said traveled about 1,000 feet some 100 yards off Route 6.
The avalanche occurred on a busy winter weekend as many skiers and snowboarders took advantage of late season snowfall in the Rocky Mountains. Several area ski resorts opened for the weekend after a snowstorm earlier in the week.
Loveland Pass, at an elevation of 11,990 feet, is popular among backcountry skiers and snowboarders.
Treacherous winter weather is not unusual on the pass, which is about 60 miles west of Denver. Skiers and snowboarders in search of fresh snow often hitchhike from lower elevations to the rocky summit above tree line. The area also is popular among photographers and tourists seeking some of the most expansive views in Colorado.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecaster Spencer Logan said there have been weak layers in Colorado’s snowpack since early January.