DENVER (KDVR) — With the recent Colorado winter storms, avalanche conditions are prime, especially with the high winds seen in a lot of the backcountry.
“Most avalanches are released by weather events, and they happen during these big storms that come through the Colorado mountains,” Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said.
Data from the CAIC showed some areas were in level 4 – high danger earlier this week.
For the weekend, most mountain ranges are back to level 3 – considerable and level 2 – moderate, but Greene said those levels can be the most dangerous.
“Most of the fatal accidents in Colorado happen in those mid-levels of the danger scale, moderate or considerable,” Greene said. “The most dangerous for us are triggered from people doing backcountry recreation.”
Greene said avalanche conditions are caused by fresh snow paired with high winds drifting new slabs of snow over buried, weak layers.
“Most of the time when we have dangerous conditions, they’re lurking under the snow’s surface,” Greene said. “It may not be obvious that there’s danger there, but then when we go in there, we start that event.”
On average, Greene said six people die in avalanches in Colorado every year. There have already been four avalanche deaths in Colorado this season.
“We still have March, April, maybe May and still a bunch of avalanche season left, so people need to not let their guard down,” Greene said.
He said people should check the conditions, come up with a safe route and be prepared in case something goes wrong.
“Avalanches are complicated, but the ways to stay safe from them can be pretty simple,” Greene said.
He said they document about 5,000 avalanches a year in Colorado, but said they believe there are more in the high country they don’t even know about.