Colorado Avalanche Information Center says it's seen more avalanches this year than previous years

Posted at 9:36 PM, Dec 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-08 11:24:19-05

Robert Paulsen has been an avid outdoorsman for about five years now.

“I’ve skied over 200 days in Colorado backcountry,” he said.

The 28-year-old lives in Alaska but was just in Colorado last week. On Thursday, he and a friend checked out a popular spot called Coon Hill on the Summit County side of the Eisenhower Tunnel to do some backcountry skiing.

“It's quick access to a lot of big bowls and faces, and some cool low angle stuff for early season,” said Paulsen. “We started skiing. Pretty immediately, I was like, 'This is not ideal. There's very little snow.'”

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Not long after, Paulsen noticed something was wrong — he'd triggered an avalanche.

“When I took a couple more steps, the entire slope fractured and started sliding,” said Paulsen. “There was a little bit of snow that moved around me, but I was able to stay on my feet and it slid by me.”

Paulsen noticed another skier get caught in the avalanche, but that person made it out safely.

Ethan Greene with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said there's been more avalanches than usual for this point in the year compared to the previous 12 winters.

Between Oct. 1 to Dec. 4, CAIC recorded 575 avalanches. Data shows 143 were triggered by people, which CAIC says is a pretty high number.

“We have a fairly weak underlying layer of the snowpack. It's very fragile,” said Greene.

With recent avalanches near Berthoud and Cameron passes, Greene says be prepared to hit the backcountry by checking the avalanche forecast on CAIC’s website, bring extra supplies and educate yourself.

“If your goal is to travel on snow-covered slopes steeper than 30 degrees, you should take a course where you're in the field with an instructor looking at the snow and how to travel in avalanche terrain,” said Greene.

So far, there haven't been any avalanche deaths this season, according to the CAIC's website. However, there were seven last season. Four people were killed in an avalanche while snowshoeing, climbing or hiking. Two were killed skiing and one snowboarding.