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Colorado Avalanche Information Center records over two dozen avalanches in Vail, Summit County last week

CAIC avalanche forecast 2023-2024.jpg
Posted at 3:52 PM, Dec 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-11 17:52:09-05

FRISCO, Colo. — Since the first two storms of the season have moved through the high country, the Summit County Rescue Group has handled one avalanche rescue call so far.

No one was injured, and they hope it stays that way for the rest of the winter season.

"The winter back country is a super fun place to recreate. Folks really need to pay attention to whether they are traveling in underneath or connected to avalanche terrain," Aaron Parmet, Avalanche Rescue Technician with Summit County Rescue Group, said.

The winter storms that have moved in so far have included strong winds that blew snow drifts onto mountain ridges.

"The winds are primarily responsible for the spike that we saw in avalanche danger," Ethan Greene, the director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said.

CAIC has recorded more than two dozen avalanches in Vail and Summit County in the last week.

"Over the next couple of days, we're going to see probably very few natural avalanches, but there's still going to be a pretty good chance for human-triggered avalanches," Greene said.

One concern isn't just backcountry skiers on avalanche terrain, but also hikers or snowshoers triggering avalanches from below.

"You could be walking through a beautiful mountain valley, surrounded by trees and look at the terrain and think, 'Gosh this looks safe. What's my danger?' and if you look to your side, you might look up at a steep mountain and be able to look up at an avalanche path that ends where you're standing," Parmet said. "You cause a small failure in the weak layer, it propagates up the hill and next thing you know, it's ripped out and it's coming down toward you."

Knowing what type of slopes to look out for is key. Anything steeper than 30% increases the risk of avalanche.

Experts encourage backcountry adventurers of any skill set to check the state's avalanche forecastto analyze the risk of their plans.

"That's going to change from day to day and from week to week. So, checking the avalanche forecast before you go out into the backcountry is the most important thing you can do," Greene said.

CAIC records two dozen avalanches in Vail and Summit County in the last week