IMAGE: RESCUERS WITH DOG
Rick Sheremeta  /  AP
A canine rescue unit prepares to join search and recovery efforts at Canyon Creek, Mont., on Monday.
updated 1/16/2008 4:36:06 PM ET 2008-01-16T21:36:06

Authorities said Wednesday they had been unable to confirm reports that two more skiers were buried by a deadly avalanche and they were reassessing whether a search should resume.

The bodies of two backcountry skiers were recovered a short time after the slide on Sunday, but authorities have not found any sign of other possible victims.

A pair of snowmobilers who witnessed the avalanche have maintained that two other skiers also were caught by the snow slide.

The witnesses were taken back to the scene on Wednesday,

"Further search efforts will be dependent upon new information gathered during the interviews currently under way, the safety of the avalanche site and the route to the avalanche," Sheriff Mike Meehan said in a statement.

The route to the avalanche site, on Fiberglass Hill near the Whitefish Mountain Resort in northwestern Montana, is a 14-mile ride by snowmobile that crosses several potential slide areas.

Authorities said they had contacted every hotel, recreation and transportation company in Flathead County but had been unable to find that anyone was considered missing.

A storm Monday night and Tuesday dropped as much as 14 inches of snow on the area. About 20 searchers looked for four hours Tuesday afternoon — after groomers scraped 5 to 7 feet of snow from the search area — but found no trace of any other skiers, Undersheriff Pete Wingert said.

The slide on Sunday killed Anthony Kollmann, 19, of Kalispell and David Gogolak, 36, of Whitefish.

Avalanches have killed at least 21 people across the West since Dec. 2, according to the National Avalanche Center. The national annual average for avalanche deaths is about 25. Thirty-five people were killed nationwide in avalanches in the 2001-2002 season, the most on record, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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