Two snowmobilers died after they were caught and buried in an avalanche on Jan. 7 near Mount Epworth, which is northeast of Winter Park.
A skier died after getting caught in an avalanche in a backcountry area called the Numbers outside of Breckenridge Ski Resort on Dec. 31.
A snowboarder died after getting buried in an avalanche on Dec. 26 near Berthoud Pass.
Avalanche deaths in Colorado
The deadliest year avalanches over the last 10 years was during the winter of 2020-2021 when 12 people died.
- 2022-2023 (so far): 4 deaths
- 2021-2022: 7 deaths
- 2020-2021: 12 deaths
- 2019-2020: 6 deaths
- 2018-2019: 8 deaths
- 2017-2018: 3 deaths
- 2016-2017: 1 death
- 2015-2016: 5 deaths
- 2014-2015: 3 deaths
- 2013-2014: 8 deaths
- 2012-2013: 11 deaths
Preparing for the Colorado backcountry
Meteorologist Chris Tomer said that tips for the Colorado backcountry have to go beyond just having great gear.
It’s a learning experience and mindset, and mentality is just as important. Tomer said preparation is key:
- Get educated
- Take avalanche classes
- Start small
- Learn from experienced backcountry skiers/snowboarders
- Know your limits
- Be conservative
- Respect the dangers
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said you should always carry an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel in the backcountry and know how to use each tool. You should also consider riding with an inflatable avalanche airbag pack.
- Transceiver: CAIC said an avalanche transceiver transmits and receives a signal that can be used to locate someone buried under snow.
- Probe: While transceivers can get you close, CAIC said an avalanche probe is necessary to pinpoint a victim’s exact location.
- Shovel: CAIC said the average avalanche burial is four feet and avalanche debris can be hard and dense, so a sturdy avalanche shovel is essential.
- Airbag pack: An inflatable avalanche airbag pack, when properly deployed, can increase your chances of staying near the surface of an avalanche, the CAIC said.
It is also important to leave a detailed itinerary with a responsible person at home. This person should understand that it is their role to immediately report any known emergent circumstances, serious injuries or medical episodes, or an extended failure to communicate after the planned timeline of your trip.