2 killed by avalanche in eastern Oregon


PORTLAND, Ore. — An avalanche in the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon killed two backcountry skiers and seriously injured two others today, officials said.

The avalanche hit at about noon as a group of eight was skiing in the remote and mountainous area near Cornucopia, Baker County Sheriff Mitch Southwick said in a written statement.

Most of the skiers are from the Seattle area. Officials weren’t releasing their names or ages until family members could be notified.

Officials said a LifeFlight helicopter was dispatched to rescue the survivors but could not get closer than 1.5 miles from the skiers. The Idaho Army National Guard also sent up an aerial reconnaissance helicopter.

Connelly Brown, the owner of Wallowa Alpine Huts, said the skiers were part of a backcountry skiing group organized by his Joseph-based company. The group included two guides and six skiers.

Brown said a guide contacted him by cellphone after the avalanche hit, reporting two possible fatalities and two skiers with broken legs. The skiers were on a guided multi-day trip, he said.

“From the description, it sounded like they were traveling and the avalanche came from above and caught them by surprise,” said Brown, adding he did not know the exact location where the avalanche hit.

The avalanche occurred in the southern part of the Wallowa Mountains, near the Idaho border. The Wallowas are known as the “Alps of Oregon.” With their rocky peaks and deep ravines, the mountains are popular with backcountry skiers, hikers and horseback riders.