Avalanche blocks key route to Vail ski area in Colorado

AP News
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Posted: Jan 10, 2017 8:00 PM
Avalanche blocks key route to Vail ski area in Colorado

DENVER (AP) — An avalanche swept across a Colorado highway that is a key route to the popular Vail ski resort, blocking access for some skiers heading to the mountain and trapping three commercial trucks, authorities said Tuesday.

No one was injured when the avalanche dumped up to 15 feet of snow onto Interstate 70 at Vail Pass overnight, said Mike Lewis, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Transportation. It also swept down a tangle of trees and rocks in its path, but the highway has since reopened.

Storms have dropped a deep layer of snow across the U.S. West over the past several days, sending excited skiers and snowboarders into the mountains but proving damaging and even deadly.

A backcountry skier found last week in the central Colorado mountains died while he was being treated for hypothermia, and another skier was rescued as he dangled from a chairlift, where his backpack got caught.

On Tuesday, other portions of I-70 and mountain passes periodically shut down so crews could trigger avalanches to prevent surprise slides.

Monarch Mountain ski area closed because of avalanche control work on Monarch Pass, and Arapahoe Basin Ski area closed early because of the avalanche danger on Loveland Pass.

Heavy snow has been falling in the mountains over the past 24 hours, and some passes have received the equivalent of 5 to 10 inches of water in the last 10 days, said Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

"That's just a huge amount of weight that is going onto our snowpack," he said.