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2 Durangoans killed in avalanche near Ophir Pass

Jeff Paffendorf, 51, and Albert Perry, 55, perish in Saturday slide

The two backcountry skiers killed Saturday in an avalanche southeast of Ophir Pass have been identified as Dr. Jeff Paffendorf, 51, and Albert Perry, 55, both of Durango.

A news release issued Sunday evening from San Juan County, Colorado, Office of Emergency Management by DeAnne Gallegos, public information officer with the county, stated a rescue team reached the bodies about 2:15 p.m. Sunday.

San Juan County Coroner Keri Metzler identified the bodies.

The rescue team included participation from San Juan County Search and Rescue, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, La Plata County Search and Rescue, and Flight for Life.

Gallegos said a search began for the two backcountry skiers shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday when the two were reported overdue.

A Flight for Life helicopter spotted an avalanche on the northwest side of Ophir Pass, near the Battleship avalanche path at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

At 11:30 p.m. Saturday, a separate party of skiers located the bodies of the two skiers.

At 2 a.m. Sunday, the rescue team decided to conduct the recovery mission later in the morning, after sunrise.

The recover mission began at 8 a.m. Sunday. At noon, teams reached the site and discovered the bodies.

According to a preliminary report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the skiers were near the Battleship avalanche slide area near Ophir Pass.

The CAIC report states the two skiers were fully buried in the avalanche. The time of Saturday’s slide was listed as unknown.

According to CAIC, men had planned to ski the Battleship area.

CAIC lists the avalanche danger in the northern San Juan Mountains as “considerable.”

parmijo@durangoherald.com

Sep 22, 2021
Durango backcountry skiers who died were experienced, knowledgeable
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