2 skiers still missing after group of 7 trigger avalanche on Highway 82 near La Plata & Twin Lakes

LAKE COUNTY, Colo. - Search and rescue crews are out looking for two skiers who remain missing following an avalanche Saturday night on the Twin Lakes side of Independence Pass, the Colorado Avalanche and Information Center said.

The avalanche was reported at about 5 p.m. Saturday on Highway 82, about 1 mile beyond the LaPlata parking area and 8 miles west of Twin Lakes Village, the Lake County Office of Emergency Management said.

"Seven skiers were near the top of the ridge that activated the avalanche. Three people were taken to the hospital in Leadville with injuries including a broken leg, broken ankle and possible broken rib and collapsed lung. Two people walked to safety unharmed. Two people are not yet accounted for," the Lake County OEM said on its Facebook page around 9:30 p.m.

Lake County OEM said a team from the CAIC and the Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment will be assessing the safety of rescue operations at first light and developing a plan to search for the missing skiers.

The avalanche did not reach the road and CDOT will also be on scene Sunday morning to assess the situation and to determine the safest way to clear the area, Lake County OEM said.

The CAIC said it was a "very large slide" that was near or above treeline.

Several emergency vehicles responded to the area Saturday night, but not much could be done because of nightfall.

The names of those involved are not being released at this time, the Lake County sheriff said. 

The slide is near Mile Marker 70 on Highway 82.

"No traffic will be allowed beyond Mt. Elbert Lodge. There is no access to Aspen beyond this point as the road is closed for the winter. Similarly there is no access from Aspen," Lake County OEM said.

On Saturday morning the CAIC warned of dangerous avalanche conditions in the high country. They said travel in avalanche terrain was not recommended because destructive slides were possible.

In a Special Avalanche Advisory for Summit and Vail counties, posted at 7 a.m. Saturday, the CAIC said, "Avalanche conditions remain dangerous. Destructive natural avalanches are possible on isolated slopes.The snowpack is complicated by buried weak layers, recent large loading, very strong winds, unusual loading patterns, and rapid warming. Unusual conditions produce unusual and surprising avalanches. You can't rely on standard safe routes to keep you out of trouble. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended today."

A similar warning was posted Sunday morning.

"Backcountry avalanche conditions are very dangerous this weekend. We are in the midst of an historic avalanche cycle. Destructive natural avalanches are possible on isolated slopes and human-triggered avalanches are likely on all steep slopes.Travel in avalanche terrain, including backcountry terrain accessed from ski areas, is not recommended this weekend," the CAIC said.

To read more about the current avalanche conditions, visit http://avalanche.state.co.us/