Heavy snowstorms that started last week have increased avalanche danger in the Colorado mountains, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center has warned.
Most of the Colorado high country was subject to “considerable” avalanche danger Monday, with only the Sangre de Cristo and Culebra mountain ranges on the east side of the San Luis Valley at a lower “moderate” level.
“These are unusual conditions,” said Ethan Greene, who heads CAIC. “The last storms were dense, wet snow, which put a lot of water on the existing snowpack below – a sure recipe for avalanches.”
Conditions are likely to worsen in the coming days with more snowstorms in the forecast, Greene said, adding that the most important thing motorists and cross-country skiers can do is keep abreast of the news. current by checking avalanche.state.co.us for avalanche or cotrip warnings. .org for road conditions.
The biggest warning sign of avalanche danger for backcountry skiers is seeing other avalanches nearby, Greene said. Skiers should also watch out for large cracks in snow banks, stay clear of steep terrain, and wear sounding poles, transceivers and shovels.
“This is why it is so important to heed the warnings before you go – if you get caught in an avalanche your options are often all but lost,” he said.
An off-piste skier was killed by an avalanche on Cameron Peak west of Fort Collins on Christmas Eve, the first avalanche fatality in Colorado this season. Another skier was buried by an avalanche near Ophir in the San Juan Mountains on Christmas Day, but escaped unharmed, CAIC reported. Interstate 70 on Vail Pass was closed for avalanche mitigation work Monday morning, with more intermittent closures expected, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Avalanches killed 12 people in Colorado last winter, tying a previously set record in the winter of 1992-93.