Two backcountry skiers killed in avalanche in southwestern Colorado

The experienced ski tourers were in the trees at about 8,400 feet. Rescuers also are looking for a snowmobiler swept away in Conejos County.

Olivia Prentzel
The Colorado Sun
Two backcountry tourers died in an avalanche Saturday in a burn area near Vallecito Reservoir, which is in southwestern Colorado. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said just before midnight Saturday, a Flight For Life helicopter crew saw an avalanche southeast of the reservoir with tracks entering the avalanche and none exiting.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center/Courtesy photo

Two backcountry skiers died Saturday morning in an avalanche southeast of Vallecito Reservoir, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported.

CAIC Director Ethan Greene said the skiers were in trees in a burn zone when the snow gave way. Their deaths bring the total number of people killed in avalanches in Colorado this season to six, compared with seven in all of the 2021-22 season.

Greene described the skiers as experienced and well-known in the backcountry community. When they were reported overdue on Saturday, the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office began a search. Just before midnight, a Flight for Life helicopter identified an avalanche that had ski tracks entering the path, but none coming out, a preliminary report of the slide says. La Plata County Search and Rescue found the skiers buried under about 4 feet of debris.

CAIC said Sunday evening a snowmobiler remained missing after being caught and buried in an avalanche Saturday close to Red Lakes trailhead near La Manga Pass. That pass is in Conejos County in southern Colorado.

Search teams were on scene Saturday and again Sunday, including officials from the Conejos County Sheriff’s Office, Conejos County Search and Rescue, and U.S. Forest Service, according to the CAIC preliminary report. On Sunday, avalanche dog teams from the Wolf Creek Ski Area joined the search as well as CAIC forecasters and members of the local community. The search for the missing rider is ongoing, according to the CAIC Instagram post.

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