(Reuters) — Two cross-country skiers were
killed on Tuesday by an avalanche in eastern Oregon, while the body of a
Colorado skier buried in a snow slide was recovered, bringing to 12 the
number such fatalities reported in the United States this winter.
A total of eight skiers were caught in the Oregon slide, which
occurred at about noon local time near Little Eagle Meadows in the
Southern Wallowa Mountains, about 350 miles east of Portland,
according to the Baker County Sheriff's Office.
Members of the group, who were from the Seattle area, were on a
guided multi-day trip through the back country, Sheriff Mitch
Southwick said in a statement. They were not identified.
In addition to the two skiers who were killed, two in the group
apparently suffered broken bones and four others were unhurt, he
said. The Oregon and Idaho National Guard dispatched helicopters to
pick up the survivors, Southwick said.
The Colorado skier, a man in his 40s whose name was not immediately
released, was killed outside the Keystone Ski Resort about 75 miles
west of Denver, said Tracy LeClair, spokeswoman for the Summit
County Sheriff's Office.
LeClair said the man had been backcountry skiing with a companion on
Monday when a 2,000-foot long, 9-foot deep snow slab broke loose and
swept the pair down the mountainside.
The surviving skier, who was partially buried, was able to extract
himself but was unable to find the other man and notified
authorities, she said.
Search and rescue teams scoured the slide area until nightfall
Monday. The search resumed Tuesday morning and around noon the man's
body was located, LeClair said.
The incident marked the fourth avalanche-related death in Colorado
this season, and the second reported fatality in the state in two
A snowmobiler was killed near Crested Butte, roughly 220 miles
southwest of Denver on Monday, according to the Colorado Avalanche
The center has warned that avalanche danger is high in the Colorado
mountains because of recent heavy snowfalls.
Before Tuesday's deaths in Oregon, 10 people had been killed by snow
slides in the United States this winter season, according to the
avalanche center, including fatalities in Wyoming, Utah, Montana,
Idaho and Washington state.
Colorado leads the United States in avalanche deaths each year, with
28 averaged nationwide annually over the past decade. Snowmobilers
account for the largest share of avalanche fatalities, according to
the center's statistics.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver and Teresa Carson in Portland,
Ore.; editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh)