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PRIEST LAKE -- Authorities have identified the two people killed in separate avalanches on Saturday.
Tim Parnow, an experienced backcountry skier from Sandpoint, was killed in a slide near Keokee Lake. Snowmobiler Patrick Kopczynski of Spokane died in another avalanche at Echo Bowl, located about 10 miles north of the first slide.
The fatalities are the first in the Selkirk Mountains since March 2000, when a snowmobiler from Athol was killed in an avalanche near Roman Nose.
Friends described Parnow, 45, as a seasoned backcountry traveler who was skilled at assessing dangerous snow conditions.
Parnow and five others had skied to the Caribou Hut, a popular backcountry destination located between Mount Casey and Keokee Lake. The lake is located a few miles northwest of Schweitzer Mountain Resort.
The members of the group were equipped with avalanche beacons, probes, shovels and other safety tools, according to Chris Bier, a close friend of Parnow's. The group had also evaluated snow conditions.
"Before skiing, they dug a rutsch block to determine the stability of the snow, and because they judged the snow was unstable, they elected to ski in less steep terrain and went to Keokee Lake," said Bier, who was not on the trip, but is friends with the people who were.
There was no warning when the slope Parnow was on gave way at about 11:30 a.m., according to Bier.
"No one saw or heard anything while it was happening; they didn't even hear the snow coming down," Bier said. "One of the skiers looked over his shoulder, saw avalanche debris and called everyone over."
The other members of the group quickly located Parnow and attempted to revive him with cardiopulmonary resuscitation. A handheld Global Positioning System and cellular phone were used to guide in Air-Med 1, a helicopter ambulance based in Sandpoint. Parnow was later pronounced dead at Bonner General Hospital.
Bier said Parnow was well-loved by many and will be sorely missed.
"The family and his friends are sticking together to get through this," said Bier. "A memorial fund has been established at Panhandle State Bank to help his 16-year-old daughter get through college."
About 90 minutes after the slide buried Parnow, Kopczynski, 42, was caught in a slide at Echo Bowl, a rugged area popular with off-trail snowmobilers. Kopczynski was riding with his 5-year-old son and friends when the avalanche struck.
"Five snowmobilers were swept up and buried in the slide," said Bonner County Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Howard. "All the riders were rescued, but Kopczynski was fatally injured and died at the scene."
Kopczynski's son escaped injury, but other victims were taken to a trauma center in Spokane. Howard did not have any information on the identities or conditions of the others by press time.
Howard said Echo Bowl had hundreds of visitors on Saturday. Some of the snowmobilers were "high-marking," which involves racing up steep slopes to see who can get the highest before turning and pointing the snow machine downhill.
Snowmobilers had apparently triggered the slide above Kopczynski. There were reports that snowmobilers had triggered the slide that killed Parnow, but Bier said there were no snowmobilers at Keokee Lake when the avalanche occurred.
An untold number of witnesses helped dig out the victims at both scenes, Howard said. Some 35 search-and-rescue volunteers and five Sheriff's deputies also participated in rescue efforts.
Volunteers also assisted at the scene of an unrelated snowmobile crash at Lost Creek. Information on that incident was not immediately available on Monday.
"Both of these avalanches are still under investigation," said Howard. "With recent weather patterns, these areas have become unstable."
[i]• The Associated Press contributed to this story.