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Spike in people caught in avalanches across Colorado ‘concerning,’ as officials warn of increased danger

Nearly two dozen people have been caught in avalanches across the state in a little more than week
Ptarmigan Fingers Avalanche_March 21, 2024.jpeg
Posted at 8:02 PM, Mar 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-29 22:08:04-04

DENVER — A spike in the number of backcountry enthusiasts getting caught in avalanches across Colorado this season is raising concerns for officials who are worried another round of fresh powder this weekend could trigger more powerful events that could be potentially life-threatening.

Since last Thursday, March 21, 19 people have been caught in 17 avalanches in the northern San Juan Mountains, Elk Mountains, Gore Range, and Rocky Mountain National Park, with three people partially buried and one person fully buried, according to Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) officials.

Between Wednesday and Thursday alone, eight people were caught in seven avalanches, officials said.

“The increasing number of people recently caught in avalanches is concerning—especially as we head into a weekend with fresh snow and Considerable avalanche danger. The increased avalanche danger means there is an even greater chance of triggering an avalanche and it could be bigger than previous days,” said CAIC Director Ethan Greene in a statement. “Thankfully, no one has been seriously injured or worse. We want everyone to enjoy our wonderful public lands and go home alive and well to their family and friends.”

A winter weather advisory is in effect through 6 a.m. Saturday for elevations above 9,000 feet, including and Battlement Mesas, Gore and Elk Mountains/Central Mountain Valleys and West Elk and Sawatch Mountains, the Elkhead and Park Mountains and Flat Tops.

The avalanche danger across all these regions is “considerable,” the latest forecast discussion from the CAIC states.

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The map above shows avalanche conditions for March 30, 2024. Conditions for avalanche danger remain "considerable" across much of the north and central mountains of Colorado.

People traveling to the mountains this weekend should expect snow above 7,500 feet, with snow accumulations of 6 to 12 inches and winds gusting as high as 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“It might be late March and officially spring, but we still have winter avalanche conditions. People should be making travel plans based on the current snowpack - not the calendar,” said Greene. “We need everyone headed into the backcountry to check the avalanche forecast and make sure your plan for the day fits the current avalanche conditions.”

CAIC has recorded more than 5,000 avalanches so far this season, with 102 people caught, 37 people partially buried, 6 people fully buried, and 14 people injured in avalanches this winter. Tragically, two people have been killed in avalanches this season, CAIC officials said.

Denver 7+ Colorado News Latest Headlines | March 29, 6pm

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