by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:
Two cross-country skiers from the Seattle area died after an avalanche Tuesday in Baker County, Ore.
The skiers were in a group of eight in the Wallowa Mountains near Cornucopia on a multi-day backcountry trip. Four of the group members were from the Seattle area, but their names were not immediately released. The group had been in the mountains since Sunday and the avalanche was reported about 1 p.m.
The National Guard was trying to extricate the skiers Tuesday night but called off the operation until daylight Wednesday. Earlier the group had been at the Wallowa Alpine Huts, staff there said.
A helicopter was dispatched to rescue survivors, but the helicopter couldn’t get closer than about a half-mile away from the scene because of white-out conditions, according to the Baker County Sheriff’s office. In addition to the two who were killed, two were seriously injured and the remaining four were not hurt, Baker County Sheriff Mitch Southwick said in a statement.
Avid cross-country skier Don Heath, who also lives in Seattle, made the same trip just last year. He showed KIRO 7 his pictures and said the area can be dangerous, even with mountain guides along.
The rescue effort is expected to resume at daybreak. But if the bad weather continues, the skiers may be stranded for a while longer.