Avalanche danger continues to hinder search for missing skiers near Silverton

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SILVERTON, Colo. (KDVR) — Several volunteer rescue agencies say avalanche conditions continue to threaten the area where three skiers went missing Monday.

On Tuesday, a Telluride Helitrax chopper continued avalanche mitigation efforts between Silverton and Ophir.

“When we went in, we thought there would only be a couple of those (avalanche danger zones) but there turned out to be quite a number of them,” Helitrax Program Director Joe Shults said.

The San Juan Mountains, where the avalanche took place had already been under the watchful eye of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.  

A group of eight backcountry skiers are said to have triggered the avalanche. Four were fully buried, one of whom was rescued by the group. 

One of the missing men has been identified as Adam Palmer, a Town of Eagle council member. 

Considerable avalanche dangers and changing weather are preventing volunteer rescuers from reaching the missing skiers.  

“(We had) just coming off a fresh snowstorm. Then you get sunshine which creates an icy plane and then you dump fresh snow on top of that it creates unstable layers,” San Juan County Office of Emergency Management Public Information Officer DeAnne Gallegos said.

The Avalanche took place in an area locals call “The Nose” where the elevation is 11,500 feet.  

The Avalanche Center says danger is constantly present in this area during the winter months.  

Ethan Greene is with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and a back country skier himself.  

“The most important thing you can do is check the avalanche forecast. Look at what the current conditions are like and match your plan to that forecast and make sure that what you’re doing that day is appropriate for the current conditions,” he said.

Back at the site of the avalanche helicopters have been dropping explosive charges to clear a path for rescuers, but they’re not sure how long it will take to reach them.  

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