4 backcountry skiers killed in Colorado avalanches in 4 days

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The bodies of three backcountry skiers buried in a large avalanche in southwestern Colorado were found Wednesday under more than 20 feet (6 meters) of debris, and a slide near Vail Mountain Resort on Thursday killed another skier, officials said.

The bodies of the skiers in southwestern Colorado, which were located with the help of their avalanche beacons, had to be left at the site between the towns of Silverton and Ophir because bad weather prevented a helicopter from retrieving them from the rugged terrain, the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management said.

A total of eight backcountry skiers have died in avalanches in Colorado so far this winter.

The slide happened Monday in an area locally known as The Nose, and the continuing avalanche danger in the area had hampered searchers' efforts to find the skiers. A fourth skier was found by rescuers and suffered only minor injuries.

Officials in Eagle County and the town of Eagle on Wednesday identified the skiers who died as county employees Seth Bossung and Andy Jessen and Adam Palmer, a co-founder of Bonfire Brewing in Eagle, the Vail Daily reported.

“Our hearts are heavy with the loss of these three men. 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,” said a statement from Eagle County and the town of Eagle.

Thursday's backcountry slide near Vail Mountain Resort in the state's north-central mountains happened in an area that the Colorado Avalanche Information Center listed as being a “considerable” danger. The center said the skier exited the resort through a backcountry access gate before he was buried in the slide, which was about 700 feet (213 meters) wide and ran about 1,000 vertical feet (305 vertical meters).

Companions and other riders in the area found the skier and performed CPR.

Authorities have not released the skier's name and age, or any additional details about the avalanche, which was triggered in the East Vail Chutes.