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Dry conditions increase risk for avalanches

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued multiple avalanche warnings over the weekend following heavy snowfall and wind in the high country.

“Those dry conditions allow the snow on the ground to turn sugar-like and loose. It becomes a poor base or poor foundation for the snow that falls,” Dale Atkins, a technical specialist with the Alpine Rescue Team said.

Atkins said he doesn’t want people to be afraid to go up and be part of everything Colorado has to offer. But he said the sobering reality is only one in every 15 people caught in an avalanche are found alive.

“Last winter for Colorado we had 12 and that tied a modern record for avalanche deaths in Colorado,” Atkins said.

Colorado holds the highest average of avalanche deaths compared to any other state in our union according to Atkins.

“If you get buried in the snow, your chances of survival are not good,” Atkins said.

Some people hit or are hit by debris in an avalanche and die but he said two-thirds die from suffocation from a blocked airway like their nose or mouth full of snow.

“Given all the recent snow and wind, we are having an issue in the high country,” Atkins said.

He said the best thing to do is be smart before you hit the high country. Atkins said to educate yourself about avalanches. Go with people who have experience and good judgment on the mountain. That means people who know when to say NO to playing in dangerous mountain conditions.

“When it comes to avalanches you don’t want to rely on luck,” Atkins said.   

Get more information on avalanche warnings.

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