PORTLAND, Ore. – An avalanche in the mountains of eastern Oregon killed two backcountry skiers and seriously injured two others Tuesday, and another skier was found dead in Colorado a day after he was swept up in a large slide, officials said.
At least 12 people have died in avalanches nationally this season, including six since Sunday. The danger of more slides remained high after prolonged snowfall measured in feet that has lured skiers and snowboarders to the mountains.
The Oregon avalanche hit at about noon as a group of eight was skiing in the remote Wallowa Mountains near Cornucopia, Baker County Sheriff Mitch Southwick said in a written statement.
Most of the skiers are from the Seattle area. Officials didn't immediately release their names.
A helicopter was dispatched to rescue the survivors but couldn't get closer than 1.5 miles from the skiers. The Idaho Army National Guard also sent a reconnaissance helicopter.
The skiers were among six people and two guides on a five-day trip organized by Wallowa Alpine Huts of Joseph, Ore., company owner Connelly Brown said.
Brown said the clients and guides were all "fit, proficient downhill skiers."
The Colorado skier was identified as Kevin Kuybus, 46, of Highlands Ranch, just south of Denver.
He and another person were caught in an avalanche Monday just outside Keystone Ski Resort, but the other skier managed to pull himself out and go for help. Members of the Summit County Rescue Group searched for Kuybus on Monday and Tuesday.
Another avalanche near Kebler (KEHB'-lur) Pass, outside Crested Butte, Colo., killed a snowmobiler Monday, said Gunnison County Coroner Frank Vader. Another person also was trapped in that slide but survived.
Two other people died in slides in Utah over the weekend. On Sunday, Ashleigh Cox, 21, of Colorado Springs, died after being caught in an avalanche while she was snowshoeing Saturday in American Fork Canyon. About 90 miles away in Sanpete County, Clint Conover, 36, died after being buried in a slide Sunday while snowmobiling.
Three skiers survived an avalanche Monday near Silverton in southwestern Colorado. One man skied out and two others were swept into some trees but were not buried, the Durango Herald reported. All three were taken to a hospital where they were examined and released.