LEADVILLE, Colo. - Heavy snow storms out west have meant it has been an unusually deadly avalanche season. More than a dozen people have already died, including two Portage natives.
Brian Lazar, the deputy director at Colorado's Avalanche Information Center, said the avalanche that killed Justin Lentz and Jarrard Law was about 1,000 feet wide.
"It's about as big an avalanche as we can get here in Colorado," Lazar said.
Investigators describe the avalanche as a size four out of five that barreled down Star Mountain Saturday, 130 miles west of Denver.
"Surviving an avalanche of this size is very unlikely," Lazar said.
The pair died and three others were injured. Two more weren't hurt. It's likely the group of skiers and snowboarders triggered the back-country avalanche by dislodging the fragile snow that was ready to give way.
"They were a great skier, a great snowboarder and they were good for the sport," longtime friend of Lentz and Law David VonBehren said.
He was a former ski resort manager in part at Cascade Mountain, and got to know Lentz and Law, who visited there often.
"At least they died doing what they enjoyed doing in life because they would ski and board every single day," VonBehren said.
The CAIO said conditions are dangerous out west due to storms that have dropped 4 feet or more of snow. Plus, warmer temperatures are creating unstable hillsides.
Fifteen people have died in avalanches nationwide this season, and at that rate, fatalities could exceed the season average of 29.
VonBehren said Lentz and Law were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were wearing transmitters, which helped search and rescue crews find their bodies Sunday.
"It wasn't like they were novices going into the back bowl somewhere," VonBehren said. "They were very good skiers and snowboarders. It's just, their time was up."
Funeral arrangements for Lentz are pending with Pflanz Mantey Mendrala Funeral Home in Portage.
Funeral services for Law will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Portage. Friends are welcome to come from 3-6 p.m. Thursday at the church. Burial will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the Center Hill Cemetery in Illinois.
Donations are being collected online to help pay for services.
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