Three skiers were found dead and buried in snow this weekend following a series of avalanches in the Colorado backcountry.
The deaths happened on Colorado’s San Juan mountains and Anthracite Range, which is close to the ski resort town of Crested Butte.
Albert Perry, 55, and Dr. Jeff Paffendorf, 51, both of Durango, Colorado, were originally reported as missing after the pair was overdue to return from a trip on Saturday, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).
“The pair had planned to ski in an area locally known as the Battleship, southeast of Ophir Pass. In the dark from a helicopter, rescuers could see a large avalanche and ski tracks,” the CAIC said in a statement.
Authorities recovered the bodies on Dec. 20.
On Friday another body was recovered from the nearby Gunnison zone. The victim was later identified as Jeff Schneider.
According to a report by the CAIC, Schneider spoke with two other skiers in the area about their descent plans, but when the other skiers noticed that Schneider’s snowmobile was still in the area they retraced his route, only to find the avalanche.
There have been over 220 reports of avalanches in the Colorado backcountry this year, leading the CAIC to mark most of the backcountry as “extremely dangerous” on their avalanche forecast.
“This is not a normal year, it’s been unusual conditions causing avalanches so far,” CAIC Director Ethan Greene said to CNN.
“A lot of avalanches were triggered by people this week. More people die in avalanches in Colorado than any other state, and this year has been especially dangerous.”
Colorado officials are urging skiers to pay close attention to the avalanche forecasts due to the increase in deaths.