The deadliest avalanche in Colorado since 1962 took the lives of five experienced backcountry snowboarders and skiers over the weekend at the well-traveled backcountry zone of Loveland Pass. The group of experienced mountain guides, avalanche experts, and backcountry equipment manufacturers were caught in an avalanche that broke above them 4 feet deep and 500 feet across, and which would eventually bury one of the victims 15 feet underneath the snow. Colorado has been getting hammered by heavy spring snow - nearby Loveland had gotten 41 inches last week alone - that all sat on top of a weak layer in the snowpack that had developed way back in January. While avalanches in general are hard to trigger under these conditions since the weak layer is buried so deep in the snowpack, when avalanches do occur, there are devastating, often ripping out to the ground as happened off the back of Aspen Highlands last week.
The friends, Joe Timlin, Christopher Peters, Ryan Novack, Ian Lanphere, and Rick Gaukel, had gathered to fundraise for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, bringing to mind painful irony. The sixth friend, Jerome Boulay, was partially buried but survived. Loveland Pass, which tops out at 11,990 feet, is a heavily-used backcountry area only 55 miles from Denver, right next to the Eisenhower Tunnel on the Continental Divide.