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Five snowboarders killed in Colorado avalanche

GEORGETOWN, Colo. — Five snowboarders were killed Saturday afternoon after apparently triggering a backcountry avalanche on Colorado's Loveland Pass, authorities said.

Search and rescue crews recovered the bodies several hours after the slide, which was about 600 feet wide and eight feet deep, said Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger.

A sixth snowboarder caught in the avalanche was able to dig himself out and call for help, Krueger said. That person's condition wasn't immediately known.

The victims all had avalanche beacons, Krueger added.

The Colorado Department of Transportation closed U.S. 6, which crosses the Continental Divide near the scene of the avalanche, to facilitate the search. The pass is heavily traveled by skiers visiting nearby Arapahoe Basin ski resort.

The bodies were taken to the Clear Creek coroner's office. The victims' identities weren't immediately known.

The avalanche occurred on a spring weekend when many skiers and snowboarders took advantage of late season snowfall in the Rocky Mountains. At least four Colorado ski resorts reopened for the weekend after a snowstorm earlier in the week, and four others were still open for the season.

Loveland Pass, at an elevation of 11,990 feet, is popular among backcountry skiers and snowboarders. Treacherous winter weather is not unusual on the pass, which is about 60 miles west of Denver. The area also is popular among photographers and tourists seeking some of the most expansive views in Colorado.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecaster Spencer Logan said there have been weak layers in Colorado's snowpack since early January.

"Our last series of storms made them more active again," he said. "Over the last week and a half, that area got over 18 inches of snow, so if you melted that that would be 2 inches of water, so that is a heavy load."

Five snowboarders killed in Colorado avalanche 04/20/13 [Last modified: Sunday, April 21, 2013 3:40am]
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