The size and spread of avalanches in Colorado in the past couple weeks show indications that future avalanches this season may be larger and wider — and therefore, more dangerous — than usual.
On Tuesday, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center posted a picture of an avalanche on Kebler Pass from Feb. 6. The photo, which shows a large and wide avalanche, "may be a glimpse into the future of the size of avalanches to come," CAIC wrote in the post.
The avalanche occurred Friday evening or Saturday morning and nobody was injured. However, snowmobilers often visit the area on weekends.
This year, Colorado has unusually well-distributed weak snow layers across the Rockies. This weak snowpack — the weakest since 2012, CAIC said — plus new snowfall and wind, has created dangerous conditions in many areas, including those that may have been considered "safe zones" in years past. The state saw dozens of "very large avalanches" like the one on Kebler Pass during the weekend of Feb. 6-7, CAIC said.
And more are expected.
As snow continues to fall around the mountains, it's burying and loading the weak layers, which are easily triggered naturally or by humans. The chance for these large avalanches will grow as these conditions continue, CAIC said.
"We expect to see more reports of very large avalanches in the week ahead," CAIC said on Tuesday.
With a stormy week and the Presidents Day holiday coming Monday, CAIC said it is expecting the mountains to be a busy place, but this could also mean avalanche danger may increase.
"Well-connected weak layers overlain by ever increasingly thick and well-connected slabs means that avalanches will run farther, be more destructive and continue to break wide and cross terrain features into adjoining start zones," the CAIC said.
Avalanche experts say now is not the time to go after ambitious backcountry goals or make assumptions about the safety of a slope.
"Play it conservative," the CAIC said.
Jan. 30 through Feb. 6 was the most deadly week in the United States for avalanches in more than a century. In that time period, 15 people died in avalanches in the U.S. — the most in that time frame since 1910, when 96 people died in a massive avalanche in Washington.
Since 1950, avalanches have killed more people in Colorado than any other natural hazard, according to the Colorado Geological Survey.
Click here to check the avalanche forecast before leaving home.