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Loveland Pass reopens after avalanche

U.S. 6 was closed due to safety concerns while responding crews were investigating if anyone was caught in the slide.

LOVELAND, Colo. — Loveland Pass reopened after it was closed for hours due to safety concerns following an avalanche Wednesday morning, the Clear Creek Sheriff's Office said.

Around 8 a.m., the sheriff's office said it received a call of an avalanche in the area of mile marker 225 at Loveland Pass and ski area.

The avalanche was described as being about 600 feet long and several hundred feet wide, according to the sheriff's office.

The sheriff's office said first responders were trying to determine if anyone was caught in the slide, but said that Flight for Life, Alpine Rescue, Summit County Search and Rescue and Loveland Ski Patrol were also responding.

Authorities said a single track leading to the avalanche area was noticed by rescuers in the area, but it was unclear if there were ski tracks exiting the area.

Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers explained that when officers initially arrived at the scene, there were two or three vehicles parked near the area, and as of right now, all of those people in those vehicles are accounted for. 

"...but that doesn't mean somebody didn't get dropped off here," Albers said. 

Rescuers used a tactic called a "probe pull."

"Which is where they stand in a line and then they they probe through the snow to see if they hit anything. And they're just working that field," he said. 

Sheriff Albers added that he would let the search and rescue crews make a call on when they feel comfortable calling off the search, based on their 'probability of detection.' 

He also said this is the first avalanche in Clear Creek County this year where there was a possible burial. 

"With the weather that we've had where it snowed and then it's nice and then it builds that ice layer up and then it snows on top of them again. That's layering. And all you have to do is break that one layer and the snow is going to come down," he said.

The area was being searched by crews, avalanche dogs and a helicopter-mounted scanner.

U.S. 6 on Loveland Pass was closed in both directions between I-70 and Montezuma Road for a few hours Wednesday morning, before reopening around noon. The Colorado Department of Transportation said the road was not impacted but was closed for cleanup.

Credit: Corky Scholl
A sign on Loveland Pass that advises those to recognize avalanche hazards.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) listed much of the state in a moderate level for avalanche conditions. 

Ethan Greene, Director of CAIC, said statewide, 70 people had been caught in avalanches this year so far, and four have died. 

In the last week, there were 39 human-triggered avalanches. 

"We've had a lot of human involvements over the last week, and a lot of that was due to the snow that we were getting towards the end of last week and over the weekend," he said. "We've gotten into a period now where we're in moderate danger across the state, which means that there are dangerous places that that you can go and get caught in a very dangerous avalanche, but they're very specific locations."

"We may be on track -- for more than the normal by the end of the year. And part of that is due to the avalanche conditions, but also it's due to the people and where they're going and their reporting."

This is a developing situation, this article will be updated as information is confirmed.

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