Colorado authorities released Sunday the names of five expert snowboarders who were killed Saturday in the state's deadliest avalanche in more than 50 years.
Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger told the Associated Press search and rescue crews recovered the bodies from a backcountry area on Loveland Pass several hours after Saturday afternoon's slide, which was about 600 feet wide and eight feet deep. All of the men were equipped with avalanche beacons.
The sheriff identified the victims as Christopher Peters, 32, of Lakewood, Colo.; Joseph Timlin, 32, of Gypsum; Ryan Novack, 33, of Boulder; Ian Lanphere, 36, of Crested Butte; and Rick Gaukel, 33, of Estes Park. A sixth snowboarder, whose name and condition have not been released, called for help after digging out of the avalanche.
The men were participating in a community event promoting backcountry safety and gear, called the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Gathering, ESPN.com reports, and Timlin was its organizer. He worked as the Rocky Mountain sales manager for several snowboard brands.
"I lost a very dear friend today," Adam Schmidt, editor of Snowboard Colorado Magazine, one of the event's sponsors, told ESPN. "I helped Joe put this community event together. Everybody in the snowboard community here knew him, and he was an awesome guy. Our hearts go out to the families of those that were lost at Loveland Pass. We are all very saddened by the news we received of this tragedy."
Gaukel was an American Mountain Guides Association-certified instructor and Wilderness First Responder. He was "one of the most educated snowboard backcountry guides in the world. Period," said Kurt Olesek, an Oakley sales rep and longtime Colorado snowboarder who attended Saturday's event but went touring with a different group. "Only a couple of other people have tested through these different levels to get where he was at."
Lanphere was the co-founder of both Backcountry TV and the Stowe Mountain Film Festival in Vermont, and was trained as a heli-ski guide with Alaska Heliskiing, Alaska, ESPN reports. He was co-owner of Gecko Climbing Skins, maker of skins for backcountry skis and splitboards, and sponsored riders.
The slide occurred on a spring weekend when many skiers and snowboarders took advantage of late season snowfall in the Rocky Mountains. Loveland Pass, which rises to an elevation of 11,990 feet about 60 miles west of Denver, is popular among backcountry skiers and snowboarders, but dangerous conditions are common there. Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said the snowpack was weakened by new heavy snow that fell over the past week and a half.
"It's been something that's been giving us problems all winter," he said. "But the snow storms that have been coming in this spring have just created a large slab on top of it."
Forecasters for the center warned skiers and hikers again Sunday of potentially dangerous backcountry conditions, saying the new snow has pushed the old snowpack to the breaking point.
On Thursday, a 38-year-old snowboarder died in an avalanche south of Colorado's Vail Pass. Eagle County sheriff's officials said the man and another snowboarder likely triggered the slide after a friend on a snowmobile dropped them off at the top of Avalanche Bowl.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, 11 people have died in avalanches in Colorado this winter season. Greene said Saturday's accident was the deadliest in Colorado since 1962.