DENVER — Authorities have released the names of four Colorado snowboarders and one skier who were killed during the weekend in the state’s deadliest avalanche in more than 50 years.
Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger said search-and-rescue crews recovered the men’s bodies from a backcountry area on Loveland Pass several hours after Saturday afternoon’s slide, which was estimated to be 600 feet wide and eight feet deep. All of the men were equipped with avalanche beacons.
The sheriff identified the victims Sunday as Christopher Peters, 32, of Lakewood; Joseph Timlin, 32, of Gypsum; Ryan Novack, 33, of Boulder; Ian Lanphere, 36, of Crested Butte; and Rick Gaukel, 33, of Estes Park. Another snowboarder, identified by friends as Jerome Boulay, was buried but survived. Authorities have not released his condition.
The Denver Post reported Sunday that the men, all experienced in extreme terrain, were participating in a snowboarding event called the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Bash to raise money for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center when the slide occurred.
Snowboarder Mike Bennett of Dillon told the Denver Post that he dug through hard-packed snow to help free Boulay before finding two others buried about two feet below the surface.
“They were wrapped around each other, below a patch of trees,” he said.
Meanwhile, Adam Schmidt, editor of Snowboard Colorado Magazine, told the Associated Press that the event, organized by Timlin, was aimed at promoting backcountry safety.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, 11 people have died in avalanches in Colorado this winter season. U.S. avalanche deaths climbed steeply after 1990, averaging 24 a year, as new gear became available for backcountry travel. Until then, avalanches rarely killed more than a handful of people each season in records dating to 1950.