The Colorado Avalanche Information Center says a long week of dangerous avalanche conditions will hit another highpoint in the last days of 2021 and urges people to avoid traveling on or under steep snow-covered slopes.
“Over the Christmas holiday weekend, an extended period of heavy snowfall and strong winds produced dangerous avalanche conditions,” said Ethan Greene, Director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. “We recorded over 200 avalanches in a three-day period, eight people were buried in avalanches, and one backcountry skier was killed.” Another intense snowstorm will impact the Colorado mountains Thursday and Friday with one to three feet of additional snowfall. “Avalanches are getting bigger; you can trigger them from adjacent flat slopes. They are breaking much wider than people expect.” Greene said. The avalanche danger will rise to HIGH (Level 4 of 5) on Thursday and could reach Extreme (Level 5 of 5) on Friday. People should avoid traveling in backcountry avalanche terrain, including the run out areas of avalanche paths. Avoid being on or under steep snow-covered slopes.
Why is this important?
Snowstorms this week brought two to eight feet of new snow to the Colorado mountains producing spontaneous avalanches breaking over a half-mile wide. Backcountry recreationalists are triggering avalanches from low-angle slopes (less than 30 degrees) that are connected to steeper terrain. Avalanches are breaking wider and running further than people expect. The avalanche danger will rise again on Thursday and Friday when another winter storm moves through the state.
What can backcountry users do?
The most important thing you can do is check the avalanche forecast before going into the backcountry. Go to www.colorado.gov/avalanche or get the Friends of CAIC’s mobile app. Look at the current avalanche conditions and plan backcountry travel accordingly. Make sure you and every member of your group carry an avalanche-rescue transceiver, a probe pole, and a shovel - and know how to use this equipment. Stay on slopes less than 30 degrees steep that are not connected to steeper terrain.
About the CAIC
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) is a program within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Executive Director’s Office. The program is a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Transportation (CDOT), and the Friends of the CAIC (FoCAIC), a 501c3 group. The mission of the CAIC is to provide avalanche information, education and promote research for the protection of life, property, and the enhancement of the state’s economy. For current information on avalanche conditions and more information on the program, visit www.colorado.gov/avalanche.