SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

April 22, 2013

Five snowboarders die in Colo. avalanche

GEORGETOWN, Colo. (AP) — 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 about 600 feet wide and eight feet deep, said Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger.

A sixth snowboarder caught in the avalanche was able to dig himself out and call for help, Krueger said. That person’s condition wasn’t immediately known.

The victims all had avalanche beacons, Krueger added.

Searchers from Clear Creek County, Summit County, an alpine search and rescue team and the Loveland and Arapahoe Basin ski resorts located the bodies, Krueger said.

The Colorado Department of Transportation closed U.S. 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 1,100 feet some 100 yards off U.S. 6.

The avalanche occurred on a spring weekend when many skiers and snowboarders took advantage of late season snowfall in the Rocky Mountains. At least four Colorado ski resorts reopened for the weekend after a snowstorm earlier in the week, and four others were still open for the season.

Loveland Pass, at an elevation of 11,990 feet, is popular among backcountry skiers and snowboarders, and on Saturday, Snowboard Magazine had promoted the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Gathering there for a day of gear demonstrations and shredding.

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.

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