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Avalanches Kill 8 Skiers in Colorado/Utah, Including Local Legends

Recent storms have loaded slopes as avalanche warnings have been on high all week in mant areas

At least eight skiers have died in the past few days in backcountry avalanches in Colorado and Utah. Always check Avalanche Canada before heading into the backcountry north of the border.

Late Wednesday night, Colorado’s San Juan County Office of Emergency Management, in a multiagency search and rescue operation, recovered the bodies of three skiers who’d been missing since an avalanche near Ophir Pass, Colorado, on Feb. 1. The skiers have been identified as leading community members.

In a joint statement from Eagle County and the Town of Eagle, the families of the deceased have confirmed their identities as Seth Bossung, Andy Jessen and Adam Palmer. “While an official announcement has not yet been made by our partners in San Juan County, the families of Seth Bossung, Andy Jessen and Adam Palmer are allowing us to share their names so we can all openly acknowledge their deaths and grieve together,” Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll and Town of Eagle Manager Brady Reitter wrote in the statement. “The families are surrounded by loved ones, and we are asking everyone to respect their wishes as to when and how they wish to communicate with others.”

“Andy, Adam and Seth were great men and they had great hearts,” Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed told the Vail Daily. “This is a real blow to the community, losing them as community members and losing the vision they had for the town.”

On Feb. 4, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group and Vail Ski Patrol responded to an avalanche at the East Vail zone beyond the boundary of the ski area. The Eagle County Coroner’s Office identified the victim as 41-year-old John Kuo, a legendary Vail skier known as “Johnny Tsunami.” The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) reported that Kuo exited Vail Ski Resort through a backcountry gate and traveled into the area known as Marvin’s within the East Vail Chutes. The avalanche broke on the east-facing line, fracturing approximately 200 metres wide and running 300 vertical metres.

On Feb. 6, four skiers died in an avalanche in Millcreek Canyon. Unified Police said they received a “faint” distress call around 11:40 a.m. Saturday. Despite poor cell phone reception in the area, they were able to determine that the slide happened in the Wilson Glade area of Wilson Fork. Four skiers survived the avalanche. All eight skiers had avi gear. The medical status of the survivors was not immediately available, but officials say they were able to dig themselves out. The surviving skiers were also able to locate and dig out the other four, but they had already died.

Gov. Spencer Cox also issued a statement, writing on Twitter: “This is a terrible tragedy and our prayers go out to the victims and families involved. We are grateful to the first responders and others who engaged in this rescue and recovery effort. With avalanche danger high right now, please exercise extreme caution.”

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