Authorities in Eagle County, Colorado have identified two snowmobilers who were killed in an avalanche they accidentally triggered near Vail.
On Sunday, The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said they recovered the bodies of 28-year-old Dillon Block and 30-year-old Cesar Almanza-Hernandez.
“We are so appreciative… of the volunteers with Vail Mountain Rescue Group who worked on this very tragic incident, our thoughts are with the families and friends of Mr. Block and Mr. Almanza-Hernandez,” Eagle County Sheriff James Van Beek said in a statement.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), the two victims were buried in an avalanche on Muddy Pass, located north of Vail, on Saturday afternoon.
There had been a third snowmobiler, unidentified at this time, who was able to dig himself out of the snow and contact authorities for help.
“The avalanche carried the other two riders into a gully in the drainage bottom,” the CAIC said in a statement. “Avalanche debris piled up deeply and they were fully buried and killed.”
“The avalanche occurred on a northeast-facing below treeline slope, around 9800 feet in elevation. It was about 650 feet wide and ran about 120 vertical feet,” the center continued. “The avalanche initiated in the old snow layers about three feet below the snow surface. It stepped down to a weak layer near the ground, about five feet deep.”
The sheriff’s office said on Saturday that they believed the avalanche had been accidentally triggered by the group.
In a post on Saturday, the CAIC warned that anyone taking to the slopes for President’s Day Weekend — a historically “avalanche accident-prone period” — could unexpectedly “trigger very large, destructive avalanches.”
“You may not get indications of dangerous conditions, like cracking or collapsing, before a slide rips out,” the center warned. “You could travel on steep slopes all day and not trigger an avalanche. If you do hit the wrong spot on the wrong slope, the resulting avalanche will be very large and inescapable.”
“You could trigger one from below or a distance, and see avalanches eight feet deep spread over a thousand feet across a slope,” they added. “You can roll the dice, but the best way to guarantee that you will not trigger one of these monster avalanches is to avoid traveling on or directly below steep slopes.”
With snow storms adding more layers in the winter months, backcountry travelers are urged to stay cautious and test the snow before skiing or snowmobiling.