The bodies of two backcountry skiers were found in avalanche debris near Silverton on Saturday.
The skiers were reported overdue and later found dead in an area known as “the Battleship,” which is southeast of Ophir Pass.
“In the dark from a helicopter, rescuers could see a large avalanche and ski tracks,” the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said in a preliminary report on the slide. “The two skiers were later found buried in the avalanche debris.”
The San Juan County Office of Emergency Management said an operation to recover the bodies was underway Sunday. The victims were identified as 55-year-old Albert Perry and 51-year-old Dr. Jeff Paffendorf. Both were from Durango.
The deaths come after a backcountry skier was killed in an avalanche near Crested Butte on Friday. The Crested Butte News identified the skier as Jeff Schneider, an avid backcountry skier known as “Schnoid.”
“Jeff Schneider was caught and killed in an avalanche yesterday while skiing Friendly Finish in the Anthracites,” the Crested Butte Ski Patrol said in a Facebook post. “Jeff was a bastion of kindness, knowledge, hard work, wit and humor. A legendary ski patroller in Crested Butte, and Aspen before that, adventure had no better emissary. We wish you well on the last leg of the ultimate adventure. Rest peacefully, and may you make many, many turns, each one better than the last.”
Schneider was the first person to die in a Colorado avalanche this snow season.
Six people were killed in Colorado avalanches during the 2019-2020 snow season.
Officials have been worried about a surge in backcountry skiers this year because of the coronavirus crisis as people look for an alternative to crowded resorts. Money normally dedicated toward attracting tourists to Colorado has been rerouted for avalanche education as a result.
After three deaths in two days, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center on Sunday urged backcountry travelers to be vigilant
“One hundred and eight avalanches were triggered by people in the last week,” Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said in a written statement. “More people die in avalanches in Colorado than any other state, and this year conditions are especially dangerous. This is not the landscape-changing event we saw in March of 2019, but it is the weakest snowpack we’ve seen since 2012. People need to recognize we have unusual conditions and their usual practices may not keep them out of harm’s way. As we gain more snow in the coming weeks, avalanches could become even more dangerous.”
To see the latest avalanche forecast for Colorado, visit www.colorado.gov/avalanche.