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Photos: Two dead, three hurt after Star Mountain avalanche in slide-warning zone

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Last week, we noted that six people had died in western-state avalanches since February 8, with Governor John Hickenlooper issuing a statement that highlighted the danger of additional slides.

Unfortunately, a group of skiers in Lake County didn't heed these warnings. Seven of them ventured into an area that was part of a weekend avalanche advisory -- and now two of them are dead and three hurt. Photos, video and details of the latest tragedy below.

The photos and accompanying captions seen in this post are shared on behalf of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which has created this map denoting current avalanche threats in the state:

Supplementing these graphics is an avalanche watch/warning through 5 p.m. today for Steamboat and Flat Tops, the; Front Range, Vail & Summit County, the Sawatch Range, Aspen and Gunnison. It reads:

Backcountry avalanche conditions are very dangerous this weekend. We are in the midst of an historic avalanche cycle. Destructive natural avalanches are possible on isolated slopes and human-triggered avalanches are likely on all steep slopes. You can't rely on standard safe routes and travel practices to keep you out of trouble. Travel in avalanche terrain, including backcountry terrain accessed from ski areas, is not recommended this weekend.

Nonetheless, the aforementioned cross-country skiers ventured into one of the areas encompassed by the advisory: Star Mountain, near Twin Lakes in Lake County, not far from Leadville. Specifically, the group headed to the east side of Independence Pass. But late Saturday afternoon, February 15, one or more of them triggered an avalanche that was soon supplemented by a second slide.

According to CBS4, two of the skiers were uninjured, because they were above both avalanches.

But the other five were in the path of the massive slide. The preliminary CAIC report says that none of them were fully buried, which may account for the survival of three, all of whom were hospitalized at last report.

But two of their friends couldn't be saved.

Thus far, the victims of the avalanche have not been identified. But their passings have already been noted by the CAIC, which points out that eight people have now died in western-state avalanches over a span of just eight days -- four of them in Colorado, with a fifth person from the state, Colorado Springs resident Ashleigh Cox, perishing in a slide in Utah.

Our sincere condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of all the victims.

Continue for more Colorado Avalanche Information Center photos of the latest avalanche, followed by a video from the scene. Continue for more Colorado Avalanche Information Center photos of the latest avalanche, followed by a video from the scene.

Here's a CBS4 package from the scene.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our News archive circa February 13: "Photos: Six dead in western avalanches since Saturday, including Colorado's Ashleigh Cox."

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