Three dead in ski resort avalanche
An avalanche near a popular ski resort in Washington state has killed three people.
John Gifford, general manager at the Stevens Pass ski area, said he was unsure how many people were caught up in Sunday's slide, or whether there were additional injuries. He said up to eight people initially reported as missing had been accounted for.
Stevens Pass is in the Cascade Mountains, about 80 miles north east of Seattle. The avalanche occurred in an out-of-bounds area on the back side of the resort.
The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Centre issued a warning for high avalanche danger for areas above 5,000 feet, saying warmer weather could loosen surface snow and trigger a slide on steeper slopes. The elevation of the avalanche was not immediately clear.
Mr Gifford said the resort had received 19ins of snow in the past 24 hours. However, he said it was not snowing there on Sunday and he had no details about the slide.
Stevens Pass is one of the most popular outdoor recreation areas in the state, with visitors flocking there to go cross-country, back-country and downhill skiing, as well as snowshoeing and backpacking.
A snowboarder was killed in a separate incident at the Alpental ski area east of Seattle on Sunday after going over a cliff.
It has been a deadly winter in Washington's mountains. Four people disappeared in vicious storms while camping and climbing on Mount Rainier last month. The four remain missing, and authorities have said they are hoping to find their bodies when the snow melts this summer.
Across the West, there had been 13 avalanche deaths this season as of February 16, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Centre, which tracks avalanche deaths in the US
Experts have said the risk of additional slides could remain high all season. They attribute the dangers in part to a weak base layer of snow caused by a dry winter.