3 people missing after skiers trigger large avalanche between Ophir, Silverton Monday

Feb. 1 2021 avalanche_Colorado Avalanche Information Center
Feb 1 2021_avalanche location.jpg
Posted at 8:55 AM, Feb 02, 2021

Editor's note: The three people who were killed in an avalanche Monday have been identified as three Eagle County government officials. Click here to read the latest development on this story.

Three people remain missing Tuesday after a group of backcountry skiers triggered a large avalanche between Silverton and Ophir on Monday.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday evening the search for the missing skiers is officially a recovery effort. Officials know where the bodies are located, but said it will be "quite an effort" to extract them. They expect to recovery the bodies Wednesday.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said Tuesday morning that seven people was traveling in an area known as The Nose around Middle Fork Mineral Creek.

Feb. 1 2021 fatal avalanche
According to CAIC, The red line marks the general path of the group, down the slope and then down the gully. The blue lines mark the approximate boundaries of the avalanche. The large avalanche on the left caught the group of skiers. The small avalanche on the right released sympathetically.

In total, four people were caught, carried and fully buried in debris. One person was located and had minor injuries. Three others were still missing as of Tuesday, CAIC said.

Search and rescue operations began Monday at 5:20 p.m. and lasted through the night into Tuesday morning.

The avalanche released on a northeast-facing slope at 11,500 feet, which is around treeline.

On Tuesday morning, a Helitrax helicopter was performing avalanche mitigation in the area so rescue operations could resume.

Avalanche danger in the backcountry is listed as "considerable" in most of the state's central and southern mountains. Click here to check the avalanche forecast before exploring the backcountry.

At this time, the San Juan County Sheriff's Office has not confirmed the identities of the victims.