5 snowboarders killed in Colo. avalanche ID’d

DENVER (AP) — Authorities have released the names of five Colorado snowboarders killed over the weekend in the state’s deadliest avalanche in more than 50 years.

Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger said that search and rescue crews recovered the men’s bodies from a backcountry area on Loveland Pass several hours after Saturday afternoon’s slide, which was about 600 feet wide and eight feet deep. All of the men were equipped with avalanche beacons.

The sheriff on Sunday identified the victims as Christopher Peters, 32, of Lakewood; Joseph Timlin, 32, of Gypsum; Ryan Novack, 33, of Boulder; Ian Lanphere, 36, of Crested Butte; and Rick Gaukel, 33, of Estes Park. A sixth snowboarder, whose name and condition have not been released, called for help after digging out of the avalanche.

The slide occurred on a spring weekend when many skiers and snowboarders took advantage of late season snowfall in the Rocky Mountains. Loveland Pass, which rises to an elevation of 11,990 feet about 60 miles west of Denver, is popular among backcountry skiers and snowboarders, but dangerous conditions are common in the area even in the spring.

Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said a systemic weakness in the snowpack was exacerbated by heavy snow that fell on the pass over the past week and a half.

Forecasters for the center warned skiers and hikers again Sunday of potentially dangerous backcountry conditions, saying the new snow has pushed the old snowpack to the breaking point.

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