2 skiers die, 3 others injured in backcountry avalanche in Lake County

LAKE COUNTY, Colo. - Both of the skiers who were caught in an avalanche Saturday night have been found dead, the Lake County Sheriff's Office confirmed Sunday.

Seven skiers were near the top of the ridge that triggered the avalanche, according to the Lake County OEM. Three people were taken to the hospital in Leadville with injuries including a broken leg, broken ankle, possible broken rib and collapsed lung. Two people walked to safety unharmed.

"One person has been released from the hospital," the Lake County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) said on its Facebook page around 11a.m. "Two other persons have been transferred to other hospitals due to the nature of the injuries."

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.

"It ran almost full path, across the creek, it didn't quite hit the highway but it was enough to break some trees," said Brian Lazar, Deputy Director of Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

CDOT will also be on scene Sunday to assess the situation and determine the safest way to clear the area, Lake County OEM said.

The names of those involved are not being released at this time, the Lake County Sheriff's Office said.

"Surviving avalanches this big is pretty lucky.  It's unusual to walk away from something this big," Lazar said.

Lazar told 7NEWS avalanche conditions are also "unusual" this year.  They have killed 14 people this season, 8 in the western US since February 8th.
"We're seeing widespread avalanches, very large and destructive.  Some of them are running bigger than they have in decades," Lazar said.
The recent storms have dumped fresh heavy snow on top of weak layers.  That factor, combined with the recent wind and Lazar said giant slabs are just waiting to give away.
"We've seen significant avalanche cycles from the front range, through Vail and Summit County, Aspen, Gunnison, even the northern San Juans.
The National Avalanche Information Center has issued a warning asking people to stay out of the back country.
"Even if you've been traveling in the back country for decades, you need to re-evaluate the places you've gone and generally considered safe because this not a normal year," Lazar said.

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



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