Brothers Fear Other Is Dead After Surviving Avalanches in Colorado

PHOTO: This undated stock photo shows Ophir Pass in Silverton, San Juan County, Colo.Getty Images
This undated stock photo shows Ophir Pass in Silverton, San Juan County, Colo.

Two brothers feared the worst for each other’s fate when they triggered separate avalanches while skiing in the backcountry of Ophir, Colorado.

On Wednesday, Brian Holmes, 26, triggered the first avalanche when he started his descent near Waterfall Canyon in Ophir, police said. His 27-year-old brother, Alex Holmes, told police that he triggered a second avalanche when he tried to ski down to search for Brian and left the area to go for help.

Police and rescue volunteers began their search for the brothers around 1 p.m., authorities said. Around the same time, dispatchers received a call from Brian’s cellphone and heard someone breathing, but nothing else.

Brian later told police that he slid about 1,000 feet down the mountain and landed on his back. He said most of his body was covered in snow, other than his face and one arm. He was able to get himself out of the snow in 10 to 15 minutes, police said.

"He then began searching for his brother, whom he thought was dead," police said.

After searching for about an hour, Brian made his way down to the town of Ophir around 2 p.m. He was taken to Telluride Medical Center and treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Rector said in a report that given the wind and worsening conditions, it’s not surprising that an avalanche was triggered.

“The [San Juan mountain range] in general can represent some of the most tenuous snow conditions on the continent, he said. “Given the circumstances and nature of the slide, this skier is extremely fortunate.”