DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee is requested funding from lawmakers to pay for better avalanche forecasting across the state. The committee voted last week to spend $1 million to help the Colorado Avalanche Information Center change from a fixed zone forecast to a flexible zone method.

The current fixed zone method issues avalanche forecasts for pre-determined regions in Colorado. The new flexible zone method divides regions into subregions based on avalanche conditions.

The General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee said the current fixed zone method is less consistent than a flexible zone method, which should make it easier to plan recreation in the backcountry.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center will receive $1 million in annual funding from the new Keep Colorado Wild state parks pass, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, but those dollars will not reach the avalanche center until fiscal year 2024-25. During the interim, the Joint Budget Committee recommended both the House and Senate support a one-time appropriation of $1,075,419 into the avalanche center’s coffers for the equipment and remote monitoring systems.

“This money is from the Severance Tax Operational Fund of about $1 million for FY 2023-2024 only.” said Mitch Burmeister with the Joint Budget Committee. “The funding also allows the center to implement better technology to improve their ability to forecasts avalanche risk generally.”

Meanwhile, avalanche experts in Canada switched to a flexible forecasting model in Nov. 2022 using daily regional boundaries.

Avalanche Canada’s Lisa Perazzoli said, “Our flexible forecast system was co-developed with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).”

“This new system allows our forecasts to more accurately reflect backcountry conditions as our regions are now determined by the avalanche conditions,” Avalanche Canada reported on its website.

“We’ve made these changes to tackle one of our biggest problems, with our old system, where conditions would often vary significantly across some of our larger regions.”

Avalanche Canada’s web site now shows regions coloured to reflect their highest danger rating. The center is a press release from Nov. said, “This, along with the ability to hover over a
region and see an abbreviated description of that rating, enables users to better visualize the danger where they plan to recreate.”