NewsLocal News


More than 1,100 avalanches were reported in Colorado in February, including 23 that caught people, CAIC says

San Juan avalanche with explosives
Posted at 3:59 PM, Mar 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-07 21:08:29-05

More than 1,100 avalanches were reported in Colorado's mountains in February, including 23 that caught and carried at least one person, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Of the recorded avalanches last month, 500 were considered large (D2) and 22 were very large (D3), and 204 were triggered by people.

These avalanches were partially fed by four notable snowstorms that hit the state throughout the month. The first storm in February brought one to two feet of snow, and buried mid-pack weak layers from January, which resulted in avalanches across the state's Rocky Mountains.

The second storm, between Feb. 6 and 9, dumped two to four feet of snow on the central and southern mountains, with about a foot in the northern mountains. The atmospheric river event from California reached Colorado around Feb. 15, carrying strong winds and dropping about a foot or more of snow. The final February storm came on Feb. 26. The southern mountains and part of the central mountains received about two to three feet of snow.

CAIC said four avalanche cycles lined up with these storms.

crested butte fatal avalanche feb 11 2024

One person died in an avalanche in February, according to CAIC.

On Feb. 11, four skiers met up along Kebler Pass Road, where they discussed the avalanche forecast — including an avalanche that had injured a snowboarder the previous day — and their plan for the day in the Anthracite Range. While going uphill, they remotely triggered two large avalanches, but nobody was caught. After a run, they went back up. As one of the skiers headed down, he was swept off his feet by an avalanche. He deployed his airbag and was carried over cliffs. The avalanche triggered a second slide, which was larger, and the man disappeared from sight.

The group later found him severely injured about 500 vertical feet below where the initial avalanche was triggered, according to a CAIC report. They used a satellite device to call for help. A Care Flight helicopter arrived to take over medical care, but the man did not survive his injuries.

gunnison county avalanche.jpeg

Local News

Backcountry skier killed in avalanche near Crested Butte identified

Katie Parkins
12:00 PM, Feb 12, 2024

"This was a highly-skilled, well-equipped group of backcountry travelers with varying levels of recreational avalanche training and years of experience skiing in steep, consequential terrain together, including in The Playground," CAIC said. "They knew the considerable avalanche danger for the day and carried appropriate avalanche rescue, communication, and emergency response equipment. They had a plan to manage their risk by choosing what they believed was a safer snowpack, specific line choices, clear communication, and short-duration exposure of only one person at a time to avalanche terrain."

The man was later identified as Eric Freson, 36, a resident of Gunnison. A GoFundMe created to help his family raised more than $41,000.

This marked the second fatality of the season.

One person dies in avalanche Sunday east of Ohio Peak

The CAIC pointed to several other close calls in February, including:

  • A group of five guided ski tourers, plus a guide, were caught in an avalanche in Commodore Basin, north of Red Mountain Pass, on Feb. 18. The avalanche was 250 feet wide and ran about 550 vertical feet. One person was fully buried and another was partially buried, but both made it out alive. Nobody was seriously injured.
  • Two people were hit and partially buried by an avalanche on Ski Hayden Peak west of Ashcroft on Feb. 7. One of them was not carrying an avalanche transceiver, shovel or probe. She was dug out by the other person, who spotted her ski sticking out of the snow. They returned to the trailhead on their own.
  • A snowmobiler was caught and fully buried in an avalanche in Leroux Creek east of Grand Mesa on Feb. 8. Two members of her party had completed avalanche rescue training and were able to rescue her and clear snow from her airway before lighting a fire nearby to warm her up.

Looking back, 602 avalanches were reported in December and 1,882 were reported in January. In total, the 2022-2023 season saw 5,813 reported avalanches, with 122 people caught in the slides and 11 people killed in them.

"As we head into March — a month when many people are used to stepping out into larger terrain as the weather becomes more spring-like — it is important to remember that we have several different persistent weak layers that have proven difficult to manage," CAIC said. "Don’t get too ahead of yourself awaiting larger spring-time objectives and always remember to check the forecast before heading out into the backcountry."

The Friends of CAIC sent a newsletter Thursday that plainly stated: “Plan for surprising avalanche behavior.”

CAIC has an interactive map on its homepage where people can learn more about avalanche forecasts and incidents around the state.

D7 follow up bar 2460x400FINAL.png
The Follow Up
What do you want Denver7 to follow up on? Is there a story, topic or issue you want us to revisit? Let us know with the contact form below.