Backcountry avalanche safety tips

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WINTER PARK — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) receives approximately 2,300 reports of avalanches every season.

But CAIC believes as many as ten times more avalanches go unreported.

“Colorado is one of the most dangerous states for avalanches,” said Jane Mather, a member of Grand County Search & Rescue.

According to CAIC, Colorado accounts for 1/3 of all avalanche deaths that have occurred in the United States since 1950.

“When you’re in an avalanche, time is not on your side. If you get buried, someone has to find you and dig you out. And you only have on average 15 to 30 minutes of air to breathe when you’re covered by the snow,” Mather added.

Grand County Search and Rescue responds to a number of avalanche calls each season. Most human-triggered avalanches in the county are caused by backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers.

“Most of those are fatalities,” Mather said.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, more than 75% of avalanche deaths in our state are caused by people exploring and recreating in the backcountry.

If you plan to partake in winter activities that will take you into the backcountry, Mather suggests educating yourself first. Perhaps even taking an avalanche safety course.

She also said you should check in with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to see what conditions are like on that day.

It’s also important to have proper tools. Mather said you should have a beacon, a shovel and a probe.

For more helpful tips and information, visit the following websites:

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