DENVER – Two snowmobilers caught and killed in an avalanche near Rollins Pass. Two people partially buried in separate avalanches near Loveland Pass and Red Mountain Pass. Another human-triggered avalanche last Saturday.
Those were just four of the more than 50 avalanches the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) documented over the weekend. Now, officials are urging those heading to the backcountry to plan ahead before their trip and be mindful of conditions across Colorado’s mountains as the number of deaths from these incidents continues to grow.
Backcountry avalanche conditions were dangerous or considerable in most of Colorado's mountains on Monday morning, a CAIC official wrote on the center’s Facebook page, warning that human-triggered avalanches were likely in seven of the twelve forecast zones.
By Monday night, avalanche danger for the northern and central mountains was downgraded but remained moderate to considerable for both Tuesday Wednesday and as a “multi-wave” storm system approaches Colorado, with the first wave arriving Monday night and bringing up to six or more inches of snow to western portions of the central mountains, according to the center’s forecast discussion.
“In some zones with a MODERATE (Level 2 of 5) danger, avalanches are becoming harder to trigger, but their potential size remains deadly,” officials wrote, warning Coloradans they could trigger large and deadly avalanches without seeing obvious warning signs of unstable snow on a slope.
“There may not be cracking or collapsing before the slope shatters. You may be the first or fifth down the pitch. The slide may break far away or far above you. Conditions like this require careful and cautious route planning,” they wrote.
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.
“Stick with your conservative plan, despite the lack of instability evidence or the siren lure of soft snow. Conditions like this require patience,” they said in on their Facebook page.
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.
Most importantly, CAIC urges you to check the avalanche forecast for the area where you’ll be recreating.
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.