Four Coloradans Recently Died in Avalanches and the Danger Will Continue

Avalanche (Photo from shutterstock.com)

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center recently reported a string of fatal accidents and continuing dangerous avalanche conditions. They are urging people to heed dangerous warnings and stop this tragic trend.

Four people have died in avalanches since December 26, and there has been more snow forecast for Colorado. “Dangerous avalanche conditions will last through the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend,” said Ethan Greene, Director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Early-season snowfall followed by heavy snow in early December and January created dangerous avalanche conditions.

“We have seen more avalanches this year than we do on a typical year, and recently they’ve gotten much bigger,” said Greene. “We want everyone to enjoy the wonderful public lands in Colorado and go home alive and well to their family and friends on Monday. 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.”

Avalanche Danger in Northern Colorado is real, and it is hazardous.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center, on January 13, rated the Northern Colorado mountains (West of the continental divide) as some of the highest risks in the state. They rated Rocky Mountain National Park as a “considerable danger.”

(Graphic courtesy avalanche.state.co.us)

Why is this important? 

The CAIC recorded over 870 avalanches since December 26. A fatal avalanche accident has been reported each of the last three weekends, killing four people. Avalanches are getting larger. People may not see the usual danger signs but still, be in a dangerous area. The avalanche danger is not decreasing, so expect these dangerous conditions to continue.

What can backcountry users do?

The most important thing you can do is check the avalanche forecast before going into the backcountry. This includes easy-to-access backcountry, like right off the highway or leaving any ski area through backcountry access points.

Go to www.colorado.gov/avalanche or get the Friends of CAIC’s mobile app.

Look at the current avalanche conditions and plan backcountry travel accordingly. Make sure you and every member of your group carry an avalanche-rescue transceiver, a probe pole, and a shovel – and know how to use this equipment.

Learn avalanche safety basics

A little bit of knowledge can save your life. You can start at the CAIC’s education resources page: https://avalanche.state.co.us/education/resources

Know Before You Go

Know Before You Go (KBYG) is a free avalanche awareness program. Not much science, no warnings to stay out of the mountains, and no formulas to memorize. In about an hour, you will see the destructive power of avalanches, understand when and why they happen, and how you can have fun in the mountains and avoid avalanches.

The KBYG program was created for middle and high school students and can be presented in a 50-minute school assembly or class period. The high-energy video, slide show, and Q&A chat with a local avalanche professional will keep students engaged and entertained.

Students will see the destructive power of avalanches, how people get in trouble, and the basics of how to avoid them, all through the eyes of avalanche professionals, pro athletes, accident victims and rescuers, and their peers. They don’t preach nor tell skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers to stay home – they encourage them to get some education to get out and have fun safely.

You can request a virtual or in-person presentation. They prioritize groups, or combinations of groups, with 25 students or more. You can find an on-demand version of the presentation and an e-learning version of the presentation on their website, and there are links to more educational.

Visit avalanche.state.co.us for more information.

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