Colorado Avalanche Coverage
Rescue crews carry down avalanche survivor.
More coverage here complete with avalanche slideshow:
Front end loader struggles with the avalanche's aftermath.
One of two cars swept off of U.S. Highway 40 near Berthoud Pass, Colorado.
U.S. Highway 40 has now been reopened following Saturday's avalanche:
A huge avalanche knocked two cars off a mountain pass Saturday on the main highway to one of the state's largest ski areas, shortly after crowds headed through on the way to the lifts, authorities said.Home video shot while rescuers probed the snow for survivors. Raw video of the avalanche from a helicopter.
Eight people were rescued from the buried vehicles and all were taken to area hospitals, said state Patrolman Eric Wynn. Details of their conditions were not available.
"Our crews said it was the largest they have ever seen. It took three paths," Stacey Stegman of the transportation department said of the massive slide on U.S. 40 near 11,307-foot Berthoud Pass, about 50 miles west of Denver on the way to Winter Park Resort.
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The avalanche hit between 10 a.m. and 10:30 and was about 100 feet wide and 15 feet deep, Stegman said. The area usually has slides 2 to 3 feet deep because crews trigger them before more snow can accumulate, said Spencer Logan of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
Three snow storms in as many weeks have dumped more than 4 feet of snow on parts of Colorado and authorities haven't had time to test all slide areas, Spencer said.
"This is a tremendous amount of snow to come down the mountain for us," Stegman said.
Mile Cikara, who was headed to Winter Park to ski, told KMGH-TV in Denver that he joined others furiously digging out victims. "I along with 30 other people grabbed shovels and started digging to get people out. I had a shovel but people were using their hands, skis, ski poles, whatever, to dig out," until rescue teams arrived, he said.
The timing meant most traffic headed to the ski area had already passed through.
"Good thing it didn't happen a couple of hours earlier," said Darcy Morse, a Winter Park spokeswoman. On an average January weekend day, the resort draws more than 10,000 skiers and snowboarders, with lifts opening at 8:30 or 9 a.m.