SILVERTON and OPHIR, Colo., February 3, 2021— The San Juan National Forest and Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests are temporarily closing the Ophir Pass area to facilitate search and rescue operations following a large avalanche that was triggered by backcountry skiers February 1, 2021. Officials are requesting the public avoid recreating or visiting the entire Ophir Pass area until recovery efforts are completed.
The temporary closure includes the area east of the town of Ophir, and the entire Ophir Recreation Area including the Ophir Pass turnoff from U.S. Route 550 where search and rescue operations are staging. Ophir Pass Road (NFSR 679), the backcountry road connecting Silverton and Ophir pass, is also closed and recreators are asked to avoid entering the area via backcountry routes as well.
The search and rescue recovery mission resumed early this morning following yesterday’s operational hiatus due to considerable avalanche risk and unstable snowpack. Recovery efforts will continue until completed or until avalanche experts deem it too dangerous for continued efforts. San Juan County, Colorado’s Office of Emergency Management Facebook page is being updated regularly on recovery efforts and operations. Media inquiries for search and rescue operations should be directed to PIO@sanjuancolorado.us or (970) 403-9951.
Avalanches can strike even the most prepared winter recreationists. Check conditions with your local avalanche center before venturing out (www.colorado.gov/avalanche). Remember that avalanche equipment is only as helpful as your training and decision-making in avalanche terrain. Know how to use your gear and respect your physical limitations. Let people know where you are going. Get avalanche educated or hire a guide before you visit the backcountry.
For more information on the avalanche area closure, please contact the Columbine Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest at (970) 884-2512 and the Norwood Ranger District of the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest at (970) 555-4340.