DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is urging residents and tourists alike to heed dangerous avalanche conditions in the backcountry this Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend as the number of avalanche deaths in the state continues to increase.
Four Coloradans have died in avalanches over the last three weekends and with more snow in the forecast for Colorado this weekend, CAIC officials are urging those looking to recreate in the backcountry to be mindful of conditions before heading out the door.
Ethan Greene, the director for the CAIC, said in a news release Tuesday early season snowfall followed by heavy snow in early December and early January created dangerous avalanche conditions, which triggered over 50 avalanches just over the past weekend.
“We have seen more avalanches this year than we do on a typical year, and recently they’ve gotten much bigger,” said Greene. “We need everyone headed into the backcountry to plan their trip carefully and make sure they avoid avalanche hazards. We need to stop this deadly trend.”
CAIC officials say over 870 avalanches have been recorded in Colorado since Dec. 26, leading to fatal avalanche deaths each of the last three weekends.
“People may not see the usual danger signs, but still be in a dangerous area,” CAIC officials wrote. “The avalanche danger is not going down so expect these dangerous conditions throughout the holiday weekend.”
Avalanche danger remained “considerable” for the northern, central and San Juan mountain ranges for both Wednesday and Thursday, according to the CAIC avalanche forecast, which is the most important thing backcountry people heading to recreate in the backcountry can check before going to the mountains this holiday weekend.
For those taking to the backcountry this week, officials said you should dial slope angles back and give yourself lots of space around steep slopes. Conditions like the ones CAIC is reporting “require disciplined route finding,” they said.
If you haven’t done so, you should consider taking a Level 1 avalanche course and be backcountry ready by bringing a transreceiver, shovel and probe at a minimum if you’re heading out to the slopes.
And if you’re interested in learning more about avalanche awareness, Summit County Rescue Group is partnering up with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to host a workshop on Jan. 14 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at their training grounds at the Frisco Adventure Park.
You can also learn avalanche safety basics through CAIC’s education resources page here.