April 22, 2013

Colorado avalanche deadliest in 50 years

Four snowboarders and a skier die during an event organized to promote backcountry safety.

The Associated Press

DENVER — Authorities have released the names of four Colorado snowboarders and one skier killed over the weekend in the state's deadliest avalanche in more than 50 years.

Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger said search and rescue crews recovered the men's bodies from a backcountry area on Loveland Pass several hours after Saturday afternoon's slide, which was estimated to be about 600 feet wide and eight feet deep.

The sheriff identified the victims Sunday as Christopher Peters, 32, of Lakewood; Joseph Timlin, 32, of Gypsum; Ryan Novack, 33, of Boulder; Ian Lanphere, 36, of Crested Butte; and Rick Gaukel, 33, of Estes Park. Another snowboarder, identified by friends as Jerome Boulay, was buried and survived, but authorities have not released his condition.

The Denver Post reported Sunday that the group of men, all experienced in extreme terrain, were participating in a snowboarding event called the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Bash to raise money for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center when the slide occurred.

Snowboarder Mike Bennett of Dillon told the newspaper he dug through hard-packed snow to help free Boulay before finding two others buried about two feet below the surface.

Meanwhile, Adam Schmidt, editor in chief of Snowboard Colorado Magazine, said the event organized by Timlin, "ironically," was aimed at promoting backcountry safety.

The slide occurred on a spring weekend when many skiers and snowboarders took advantage of late season snowfall in the Rockies. Loveland Pass, which rises to an elevation of 11,990 feet, is popular among backcountry skiers and snowboarders.

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