DENVER (KDVR) — With more avalanche danger continuing to pile up by the day, many search and rescue teams in the High Country are asking folks to be extra cautious.
Fact is, with ten people having already been killed by avalanches this season, emergency responders are concerned there will likely be additional deaths in the weeks and months ahead.
Typically, Colorado experiences about six deaths each avalanche season.
“Since December 20 , we’ve had 5 avalanche deaths in San Juan County — which is absolutely unusual,” said DeAnne Gallegos, spokeswoman for San Juan County in southwest Colorado.
The southwest pocket of our state is a popular place for Coloradans to visit for winter-time activities each year.
Currently, conditions are below average for the San Juan Mountains; though this recent storm did some bring some decent weather to the area.
“But it’s been very dry, powdery snow, not a lot of moisture. And that is what is lending to the unstable snowpack,” Gallegos said.
The unstable snowpack has resulted in a series of avalanches; including the slides responsible for killing five people near Ophir.
Yet, Gallegos says the deaths weren’t enough to make some folks think twice.
“The very next weekend in San Juan County we had a snowmobiler trigger an avalanche, in which he was buried but extracted.
Search and Rescue teams recommend you always check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s website for updates on conditions.
Proper gear is necessary too.
“Have a shovel, beacon and probe. So always go out prepared,” Gallegos said.
Exploring Colorado’s backcountry has become even more popular in 2021.
Plenty of people exhausted by pandemic city life use the backcountry as an outlet.
“In the last week, we’d see plenty of folks going out playing in the snow,” said Justin King, a spokesperson for Colorado 4×4 Rescue & Recovery.
Colorado 4×4 Rescue & Recovery is a non-profit organization that helps stranded motorists across Colorado.
According to King, the group typically receives 1-2 calls per day, but lately it’s been upwards of 5-10 per day.
“I would be willing to bet here as the temperatures warm up, you’ll see more people heading into the backcountry,” King said.
King urges motorists unfamiliar with driving in Colorado’s backcountry to learn more about the area and its conditions before heading out.
“It’s usually been folks who will go out in the morning when it’s chilly and the sun will come out and heat up that forest road and you’ll fall through that top layer of snow on your way out and you can be a couple miles back,” King said.