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11th avalanche fatality this year: Spring avalanche danger increases for back country skiers

A skier was killed after an avalanche on Bald Mountain, officials warn of spring avalanche conditions
Posted at 5:42 AM, May 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-01 07:42:26-04

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. - While some ski resorts are closed up for the season, Colorado's backcountry still offers some great spring skiing. With the warmer temps, officials are warning of spring avalanches.

A skier was killed over the weekend near Breckenridge in a spring avalanche. Those are typically small wet avalanches being pushed onto previously dry, recently wind-drifted snow. They're often times small in size and only several inches deep, but when they push skiers or riders down continuously steep backcountry terrain, the results can be deadly.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said we're getting into the time of year when meltwater in the snowpack will cause more slides.

"We're in the spring, the sun is higher in the sky, the days are longer. So we start to get that seasonal snowpack that's been building all winter, it starts melting, that water drains down through the snowpack and that can cause some avalanche problems," explained Ethan Greene, Director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The current avalanche forecast for the entire high country has been upgraded to Moderate Danger.

"Just like in the summertime, when you're climbing high peaks, and you're looking at the thunderstorm forecasts, and if those thunderstorms are going to start early in the morning, you're probably going to go do something else that day. We want people to do the same thing with avalanches," said Greene.

They stress, just because winter is over doesn't mean the avalanche risk goes away.

"Last year seven people lost their lives in avalanches in Colorado. [Saturday's] accident was our 11th fatality in Colorado this year. That's significantly worse. The other thing to remember is that the last fatality last year, was at the end of May," said Greene.

By heading out early and wrapping things up early before snow melts too much, checking the avalanche forecast and bringing your avalanche rescue transceiver, probe pole and a shovel, you can enjoy the last bit of spring skiing safely.

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