Eagle County officials have released the names of three skiers caught in an avalanche Monday near Silverton.
In a joint statement, Eagle County and the town of Eagle said the community is “mourning the loss of three friends and leaders.”
“While an official announcement has not yet been made by our partners in San Juan County, the families of Seth Bossung, Andy Jessen and Adam Palmer are allowing us to share their names so we can all openly acknowledge their deaths and grieve together,” the statement said.
Four backcountry skiers were caught in an avalanche Monday between Silverton and Ophir, on a run known as “The Nose.”
One of the skiers was rescued by other members of the group and survived with minor injuries.
DeAnne Gallegos, spokeswoman for San Juan County, said Wednesday the skiers were wearing beacons and their locations are now known. Dangerous avalanche conditions and adverse weather, however, has complicated efforts on the part of search crews to extract the men.
“It’s obviously extremely unlikely that anyone survived,” she said. “But technically, it’s the coroner’s job to say whether they’re alive or not.”
A search and rescue mission began around 5:20 p.m. Monday and lasted late into the night. Efforts resumed Tuesday morning, but avalanche danger posed too great a risk to search and rescue crews, and the mission was called off.
Gallegos said a naturally triggered avalanche Tuesday trapped about 12 emergency responders, and they had to abandon their snowmobiles and trek out on foot.
“It’s hazardous avalanche terrain and conditions,” she said.
Gallegos said the mission resumed Wednesday morning, and a Sno-Cat attempted to clear a route through 12 feet of debris from Tuesday’s avalanche that trapped emergency responders.
The search and rescue mission is likely going to rely more heavily on helicopter crews, but adverse weather conditions Tuesday grounded flights.
Eagle County officials said, “The families are surrounded by loved ones, and we are asking everyone to respect their wishes as to when and how they wish to communicate with others.”
“Our hearts are heavy with the loss of these three men,” the joint letter said. “Their contributions through their work in local government and local businesses, as well as their personal passions and their impact on the friends and family members they leave behind, have helped shape the community in ways that will be forever lasting.
“Every single one of us,” the joint letter continued, “in both of our organizations has learned by their examples, and we are grateful to be able to call them colleagues.”
Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll said Palmer, 49, was the county’s sustainable community director, and Bossung, 52, worked in the department.
Jessen, 40, was the owner of the local Bonfire Brewery, Shroll said.
Both Jessen and Palmer served on the Eagle Town Council.
Rescue efforts are expected to be further complicated by a winter storm that moved into the region Wednesday that is expected to last until Thursday morning. During that time, up to 8 inches of snow could fall in the high country around Silverton.
The public is asked to avoid the Ophir Pass area.