Unusually dangerous avalanche season in Colorado; 2 more deaths

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Two more skiers have been killed by a large avalanche, this one in Colorado, bringing to 15 the number of fatalities nationwide this season.

The bodies of Justin Lentz, 32, and Jarrad law, 34, both of Portage, Wis., were recovered Sunday afternoon near Independence Pass, about 80 miles southwest of Denver, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said. Three other skiers were hospitalized for injuries.

Lentz’s father, Robert, said his son had been skiing since he was 5 or 6 years old. He was an electrician and engaged to be married.


Lentz and Law frequently went skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking together, friend Joey Kindred told reporters over the weekend.

Saturday’s avalanche was the third deadly slide in Colorado in less than a week, authorities said.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Center, 15 people have died in avalanches this winter. This month, in addition to the two latest deaths, two others were reported in Colorado, two in Utah, two in Oregon and one in Idaho.

Last winter, 34 people died in avalanches, according to the Forest Service National Avalanche Center.

Avalanche risk has been high in the West after heavy snow fell during what has been a relatively dry winter. The Colorado center has been warning of dangerous conditions and in an advisory cited “unusual conditions” in the Rocky Mountains — weak layers beneath the surface of the snowpack, rapid warming and strong winds — that can lead to “unusual and surprising avalanches.”

“We are seeing very dangerous avalanche conditions developing from basically the New Mexico border north to Wyoming,” the center said. “And the problem list is about as complicated as it can get. We are seeing very large avalanches taking out very old trees, mine buildings that have been around for many decades, and avalanches burying roadways with 20 feet of debris.


“People have been getting caught and killed in avalanches recently,” it said. “These are glaring, flashing and obvious clues that things are not all good across our backcountry. We are seeing a snowpack that is teetering on the brink of critical mass.”


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