GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Three weekends in a row there have been deadly avalanches in Colorado, and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said conditions aren’t changing.
Saturday, two people died near Mount Epworth marking the third and fourth deaths of the season.
CAIC said these deaths should be catching people’s attention because the snowpack the state is seeing is extremely dangerous and the conditions will be the same for at least a few weeks.
CAIC said there are multiple factors playing into why we’re seeing this high number of deaths.
“We got a heavy snowfall in early December and that built the snowpack, much more than we see in a typical year and certainty in the last couple of years,” CAIC Director Ethan Greene said. “So, we are seeing larger avalanches than we’ve seen in the last few years.”
Next, is the avalanche report. If you check the report online, the state is at a mix of moderate and considerate avalanche conditions.
Greene said that’s the most dangerous mix.
“Most fatal accidents happen at those levels because avalanche hazard is less obvious [than] if it’s at high or extreme,” he said.
The deaths have happened under similar conditions on similar types of terrain.
It’s best to avoid slopes steeper than about 30 degrees. If you do go, CAIC said you have to be prepared.
“If what you want to do is ride on steep slopes, then you should take a course where you’re in the field with an instructor for a couple of days. That’s really going to be helpful,” Greene said. “Lastly, be prepared for avalanches. The bare minimum is to have rescue equipment, a transceiver, a probe pole and a shovel. Everyone in the group should have that equipment and everyone needs to know how to use it.”
It’s important to always check conditions before you head out, but that alone isn’t enough to stay safe in the backcountry. CAIC also highly recommends taking avalanche training classes to make sure you know how to interpret the forecast.