Steamboat Springs The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued a special avalanche warning for the mountains of Colorado through 10 a.m. Monday.
Some of the most serious avalanche conditions in recent memory exist in the Colorado backcountry, and the Avalanche Information Center and U.S. Forest Service are asking backcountry users to be aware of dangerous conditions during Presidents Day weekend.
During the past week, seven people have been caught in avalanches in the Colorado mountains. Two of them died, bringing the state’s fatality total to six for the season. Two others were hospitalized with serious injuries.
Fort Collins man Tyler Lundstedt, 24, died in an avalanche on Buffalo Pass in January. He was with his brother Jordan Lundstedt, and both men had avalanche beacons, but Jordan was unable to dig out Tyler in time.
Specific to the Steamboat and Flat Tops zone, the Avalanche Information Center is describing a “tender snowpack” made worse by recent wind and storm slabs.
“The snowpack in the Fish Creek area has been very reactive, with small avalanches and poor results in snowpit tests, mostly on north aspects below treeline,” the Steamboat zone forecast read Friday afternoon. “The new snow layers are consolidating, but they are resting on a very weak snowpack and these new slabs remain a very present danger.”
The report goes on to state: “You are most likely to trigger such a slab on slopes steeper than 35 degrees, and this problem exists on all or nearly all aspects. Should you trigger an avalanche, it has the potential to be large and destructive and may even run to the ground.”
On average, six people die in avalanches in Colorado each season, and since 1950, avalanches have killed more people in Colorado than in any other state, according to a news release.
The Avalanche Information Center reports that avalanche conditions in the backcountry areas of Colorado this season are the worst in many years. Although Colorado’s winter started off dry, above-average temperatures in January and snowfall in February have created high-risk conditions. The Avalanche Information Center is describing avalanche danger as “considerable” throughout the state, meaning natural avalanches are possible and human-triggered avalanches are likely.
Several recent accidents have involved experienced backcountry travelers and off-duty professional avalanche workers. Backcountry users can reduce their risk by avoiding traveling on or below slopes steeper than 30 degrees. Backcountry travelers also should travel in groups and carry appropriate avalanche safety equipment, including a shovel, probe and avalanche rescue beacon, according to the release.
For more information, visit the Avalanche Information Center’s website at www.avalanche.state.co.us.
Avalanche danger scale