NEDERLAND, Colo., Nov. 29 (UPI) -- A dive team Thursday recovered the body of a backcountry skier who was swept into a Colorado mountain lake by an avalanche.
Peter Vaughn, 41, and Joe Despres, 29, were skiing late Wednesday near 10,000-foot-high Yankee Doodle Lake when the avalanche swept them both into the frozen lake, said Dave Booton of the Boulder County Sheriff's Office.
Vaughn was able to dig himself free from the slide and hike about 3 miles to the Eldora Ski area where he reported the avalanche, Booton said. He could not find Despres, but about 60 rescuers converged on the area late Tuesday night.
Searchers were directed to the lake by Despres' avalanche beacon and early Thursday a dive team recovered Despres' body about 50 to 100 feet from the shore, under about 3 feet of ice, Booton said.
Vaughn was transported Wednesday night to Boulder Community Hospital with hypothermia and frostbite to his hands and feet. He was reported in stable condition Thursday.
Vaughn and Despres were equipped with the proper backcountry gear, including snow shovels, probe poles and avalanche beacons, Booton said. The beacon is a small radio transmitter used to locate a lost skier or backcountry traveler covered by an avalanche.
Heavy snow began falling Thanksgiving weekend in the Colorado Rockies and skiers and other backcountry travelers have been warned that the avalanche danger is high right now in the mountains.
In the past 15 years, one-third of all U.S. avalanche deaths have occurred in Colorado, partly due to the kind of snowstorms that most often hit the state, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Last year, there were 33 avalanche deaths in the United States, a modern day record. Four of them were in Colorado.
Until Wednesday's accident, there had been only one other avalanche death this year in the United States. A woman snow boarder was buried in a slide Nov. 11 in Alaska.