EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — Search and rescue crews on Sunday recovered the bodies of two snowmobile drivers who were caught in a back-country avalanche the day before near Vail, according to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office.
A third snowmobile driver was able to dig out and was not hospitalized, the Sheriff's Office said.
The two men who died, identified as Dillon Block, 28, and Cesar Almanza-Hernandez, 30, both of Gypsum, were carried by the avalanche into a gully at the bottom of a drainage area where debris piled up deeply. They were fully buried, the Sheriff's Office said.
The Sheriff's Office received a report of the avalanche at 4:45 p.m. Saturday in the area of Muddy Pass, north of Vail.
It appears the group of three snowmobile drivers might have triggered the avalanche, according to a Sheriff's Office press release.
The avalanche occurred on a northeast-facing below treeline slope, around 9,800 feet in elevation, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). It was about 650 feet wide and ran about 120 vertical feet.
The avalanche initiated in the old snow layers about 3 feet below the snow surface. It stepped down to a weak layer near the ground, about 5 feet deep.
CAIC said on Facebook that over the past three days, it has received reports of 20 natural and human-caused avalanches large enough to kill a person.
Avalanche danger was considerable in the northern mountains on Sunday as a major snowstorm moved into the region, according to CAIC.
The center said that over the past 10 winters, six avalanche accidents around President's Day weekend have been deadly. In addition, avalanches caught 20 people over the 2013 holiday weekend and 10 over the 2014 holiday weekend.
"Avalanche conditions are tricky and dangerous in parts of the Central and Northern Mountains," CAIC officials warn.
The Eagle County Sheriff's Office warned that it's important for those in the back country to carefully check the layers of snowpack and test their stability because changes in temperature can cause snow layers to become unstable.
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