backcountry mountains near Silverton, CO
Backcountry near Silverton, Colo.; photo credit: Payette Media House

3 Skiers Killed in Colorado Avalanche Found, Identified

Search-and-rescue teams worked through the day Wednesday to find missing skiers caught in an avalanche earlier this week.

Tragedy struck the community of Eagle, Colo., on Monday when an avalanche caught a group of backcountry skiers killing three beloved members of the mountain town.

The avalanche struck between Silverton and Ophir Pass in an area known as The Nose. The group of seven backcountry skiers in the area was able to recover one of their buried members, who had minor injuries.

Emergency personnel began search-and-rescue efforts for the remaining three. But they had to stop on the evening of Feb. 2 due to avalanche hazard, according to a Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) report. Last night, search-and-rescue teams were able to return to the area to recover the skiers.

The skiers have been identified as Eagle County residents Seth Bossung, Adam Palmer, and Andy Jessen, owner of the local Bonfire Brewing.

ophir pass avalanche
The red line marks the path of the skiers while the blue lines mark the direction of the avalanche; photo credit: CAIC

“Our hearts are heavy with the loss of these three men,” wrote the Town of Eagle in a statement. “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.

“Every single one of us in both of our organizations has learned by their examples, and we are grateful to be able to call them colleagues.”

The avalanche marks one of the largest avalanches in Colorado in recent years in terms of the number of people caught, buried, and killed.

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Ophir Avalanche: Skiers Identified

“San Juan County Sheriff’s Dept., Office of Emergency Management, San Juan County Search and Rescue, La Plata County Search and Rescue, Silverton Mountain Medical crew, and CAIC were all involved in today’s operation,” the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management wrote on Wednesday.

Teams worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday to recover the victims. According to the report, the avalanche buried the missing skiers in 20-plus feet of debris. The buried skiers were all wearing beacons.

The Town of Eagle and Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed held a virtual press briefing yesterday, which you can watch here for more information.

SAR teams will transfer the skiers to the San Juan County Coroner’s Office via helicopter once safe to do. The Ophir Pass area is fully closed until further notice.

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Mary Murphy
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Mary is based out of GearJunkie's Denver, CO office. She has a degree in English and Journalism, and been writing professionally for over five years. Her outdoor interests span from running to sport climbing, from landscape photography to skiing to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.