The bodies of three backcountry skiers killed in an avalanche in southwestern Colorado were found Wednesday.
Seth Bossung, Andy Jessen and Adam Palmer died Monday. The town and county of Eagle, Colo., where the men lived, released their names with the permission of their families "so we can all openly acknowledge their deaths and grieve together."
All three men were involved in or worked for county and town governments.
"Our hearts are heavy with the loss of these three men," the Eagle statement continued. "Their contributions through their work in local government and local businesses, as well as their personal passions and their impact on the friends and family members they leave behind, have helped shape the community in ways that will be forever lasting. Every single one of us in both of our organizations has learned from their examples, and we are grateful to be able to call them colleagues."
A total of eight people have been killed since this past weekend in four avalanches in as many states.
In Colorado, ground teams worked 12 hours to extract the bodies, but they could not yet be removed from the mountain by helicopter because of bad weather, according to a post on the Facebook page of the Office of Emergency Management of San Juan County, where the avalanche occurred. The skiers were buried in 20 feet of snow and debris and were found with the help of avalanche beacons, which they were all wearing.
"This cuts deep throughout the community," Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll told the Vail Daily. "These guys were so involved."
Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed called their deaths a "real blow to the community, losing them as community members and losing the vision they had for the town."
Palmer and Jessen had been elected to the Eagle Town Council, Palmer was director of the county's Sustainable Communities program and Bossung was the county's energy efficiency project. Jessen was also a co-founder of Bonfire Brewing, a popular microbrewery in Eagle.
The skiers were part of a group of seven caught Monday in the avalanche in an area known as "The Nose," which lies between the towns of Silverton and Ophir, just south of Telluride. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center had rated the avalanche hazard that day as "considerable."
The group was skiing on the northeast-facing slope near the tree line at 11,500 feet. Denver's NBC affiliate reported that avalanches can easily be triggered on northerly and easterly slopes, even from far away or below.
Four of the seven were fully buried in the avalanche, but the other three were able to rescue one skier, who had minor injuries. At least one left the group to get cellphone reception and call for help, DeAnne Gallegos of the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management told the New York Times.
Search-and-rescue operations were conducted Monday evening and Tuesday, then suspended because of the danger of further avalanches, according to a preliminary report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
Since last weekend, avalanches have killed an additional five people in three other incidents. On Saturday in Utah, two skiers were caught and one was killed in an avalanche outside resort boundaries near the Park City Mountain Canyons Village resort, the local sheriff's office said in a news release.
On Wednesday, the body of an unidentified backcountry skier who had been reported missing the day before was recovered after an avalanche in the Ammonoosuc Ravine area of White Mountain National Forest, according to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
"Backcountry skiing is a risky venture that should only be attempted by the most prepared and experienced skiers. This skier did have years of experience and was prepared, which was evident by his use of an avalanche transceiver, but skiing in avalanche conditions is never recommended and can be extremely dangerous," Fish and Game officials wrote. "Without the transceiver, it is possible the skier's body may not have been located until the snow completely melted in the spring."
In Alaska, the bodies of three hikers were recovered Wednesday from the site of an avalanche, authorities with the Alaska Department of Public Safety said. The hikers were reported overdue Tuesday evening near Bear Mountain in Chugiak, which lies 20 miles northeast of Anchorage. State troops and the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group found the hikers buried in a recent avalanche and reported that they were not wearing avalanche beacons or locator beacons.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center website, which as of Thursday morning had not been updated to included the deaths of the Colorado skiers, listed 11 fatalities resulting from eight avalanches nationwide since Dec. 18. There were 23 people killed by avalanches in the 2019-20 season (December through April), according to the website.