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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Rescuers followed tracks in snow to find two skiers killed by avalanche

By April Rubin

Two backcountry skiers who had gone missing Saturday in southern Colorado were found buried under the snow Sunday after rescue teams used cellphone records and followed ski tracks to locate their bodies, authorities said.

The skiers, both men, were reported missing just after 9 p.m. Saturday and their bodies were found under several feet of snow by 4 a.m. Sunday, the Colorado Search & Rescue Association said in a statement. They were south of the Vallecito Reservoir, a recreation area about 20 miles northeast of Durango, Colorado, that is part of the San Juan National Forest and is close to the border between Colorado and New Mexico.

The two skiers, whose identities had not been released by Sunday night, left for the outing about 7 a.m. Saturday and were expected to return at noon the same day.

The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office located a truck that the skiers had been driving on the southern end of the lake, and ground and helicopter crews continued the search, the statement from the rescue group said.

The helicopter crew spotted the ski tracks at 11:42 p.m. Saturday, having employed a radar signal that is part of rescue technology used to locate people buried under snow or lost outdoors.

Avalanche danger had been deemed “moderate” for the area Saturday, rating a 2 on a scale of 1-5, according to a forecast from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Also in the southern mountains of Colorado, a snowmobiler was caught, carried and injured by an avalanche at Wolf Creek Pass, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said Sunday.

So far, 12 people have died as a result of avalanches in the United States in the 2022-23 winter season, with three of those incidents reported in Colorado. Those previous deaths from avalanches in Colorado involved snowmobilers, climbers and people touring the backcountry.

For the 2021-22 winter season, 17 deaths caused by avalanches were reported in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, down from 37 in the previous season.

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