LEADVILLE, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – Two skiers killed in a large avalanche in Lake County were good friends from a small town in southern Wisconsin, relatives and colleagues said Monday.
Three other skiers were hospitalized following Saturday’s avalanche near Leadville. Rescue crews found the two skiers’ bodies Sunday afternoon near Independence Pass, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said.
Robert Lentz said his son, Justin Lentz of Sun Prairie, Wis., was one of those killed in the avalanche. The 32-year-old loved to ski and started when he was 5 or 6 years old, his father said. He said his son was “a good kid” who worked as an electrician and was engaged to be married.
Jarrard Law, 34, of Portage, Wis., was also killed. Law was an information-technology expert at the Necedah Area School District, where Superintendent Larry Gierach remembered him as an “incredible man.”
“Jarrard had great skills with people and was an integral part of our planning when it came to technology,” Gierach said. Many staff members thought of him as a friend first and as a professional second, the superintendent said.
The school district planned to make grief counselors available to faculty and students.
Law and Lentz, who used to live in Portage, were close buddies who frequently went skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking together, said Joey Kindred, 28, who knew them both well.
Kindred recalled how Lentz enjoyed competing with his friends with over-the-top snowboard tricks, even though he had a bad shoulder that popped out of its socket whenever he crashed.
“He’d fall down so often we’d call him Man Down,” Kindred said. “He’d laugh, get up and do it again. And when his shoulder popped out he’d call over to his fiancee – she’s a nurse – and she’d pop it back in.”
Law was always the life of a party, but he was happiest when he was in the outdoors or spending time with friends, Kindred said.
Kindred had gone skiing and snowboarding with Lentz and Law in the past. He said the two had only skied at resorts in Colorado so they wouldn’t have been familiar with the backcountry trails.
“I just wish I could have been with them to stop them from going down those lanes,” said Kindred, who used to live in Colorado.
Saturday’s avalanche was the third deadly slide in Colorado in less than a week, authorities said Sunday.
Susan Matthews, a spokeswoman for the Lake County Office of Emergency Management, said seven skiers on Star Mountain near Leadville triggered the latest slide around 5 p.m. Saturday.
“They were found near the top of the avalanche and they had beacons on, which really helped a lot,” Matthews said. “The terrain there is extremely steep.”
Three skiers were hospitalized with injuries that included a broken leg, a broken ankle and a possible broken rib and collapsed lung. One has since been released from the hospital.
Brian Lazar, deputy director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said recent storms that have dumped up to 6 feet of snow in some parts of Colorado’s mountains have left most of the mountains in a “historic avalanche cycle.” Such conditions have not been seen in the region since at least the early 1990s.
The snow has fallen on top of weak layers in the snowpack.
“A little snow or wind or the extra weight of a person in the wrong place could trigger an avalanche,” Lazar said.
He said Saturday’s avalanche was at least a 3.5 on an intensity scale that goes from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most destructive. The avalanche snapped several mature trees as it rumbled down the slope.
“It’s breaking trees that have been there a long time,” Lazar said. “This is a good indication that avalanches are running bigger than they have.”
Associated Press writers Gretchen Ehlke and Dinesh Ramde in Milwaukee and Peter Banda in Denver contributed to this report.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)