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Colorado is once again the most dangerous state in the country for deadly avalanches

Avalanches have killed 287 people
Posted at 10:27 PM, Dec 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-28 00:27:10-05

BOULDER, Colo. — You might as well call Colorado's high country "avalanche country."

Colorado is once again the country's most dangerous state for deadly slides, according to data from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).

Since the 1950s, avalanches have killed 287 people in Colorado, easily surpassing other danger zones like Alaska (158 deaths), Washington State (130 deaths) and Utah (120 deaths).

"Here, we have a lot of people in close proximity to very accessible avalanche terrain," said CAIC Deputy Director Brian Lazar.

Lazar described last year's avalanche season as unprecedented — a cycle which saw slides rumble across entire highways. Eight people died in avalanches last season.

"Given just the extent of that cycle and the size and the number of really big, historic avalanches that we saw that — no one alive in Colorado has seen a cycle quite like that," he said.

During the 2018-19 season, the state recorded 4,273 slides and 135 people caught in avalanches.

Lazar said more people accessing Colorado's back country and the state's unique snow climate are why we see more slides than other states.

"We have thin snow pack with dry periods — which gives us all the sunshine we love — that forms weak layers in the snow," he explained. "We tend to have a more dangerous snow pack in and of itself and it's in close proximity to lots of people."

CAIC said it's hard to predict what this year's avalanche season will bring but hopes Colorado's dangerous ranking will serve as a warning to always check the forecast before recreating in the high country.

"Make sure they carry the minimum rescue gear, which is an avalanche transceiver, shovel and a probe," said Lazar. "If this is all kind of new to you, then get some avalanche education so you know how to both use and interpret the forecast as best as you can."