PORTAGE, Wis. (AP) — Two skiers killed in a large avalanche about 8 miles west of Twin Lakes, on the eastern side of the Independence Pass summit, came 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, about 80 miles southwest of Denver, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said.
Robert Lentz said his son, Justin Lentz of Portage, was one of those killed in the avalanche. The 32-year-old Lentz loved to ski and started when he was 5 or 6 years old, his father said. Lentz said his son “was a good kid” who worked as an electrician and was engaged to be married.
Another Portage man, Jarrard Law, 34, 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.
Lentz and Law 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 his friends with over-the-top snowboard tricks, even though he had a bad shoulder that would pop out of its socket every time 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 has 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 slide at about 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 discharged from the hospital.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center had been warning of dangerous conditions across much of Colorado’s mountains after two weeks of heavy snow that lured backcountry skiers and snowboarders to the high country.