Mar 25, 2021 - News

Colorado avalanche deaths now tied for most in a century

Colorado avalanche fatalities by season
Data: Colorado Avalanche Information Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Colorado reached a grim milestone this week: Tied for most avalanche deaths in a century.

The state recorded its 12th avalanche fatality of the season Monday when a skier triggered a slide in the backcountry near Beaver Creek Resort and traveled 1,000 feet down a steep rocky chute, officials reported.

  • The death count matches the 1992-1993 season, which is the highest in the last 100 years, said Ethan Green, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

What's happening: A bad base layer known as depth hoar, or sugar-like crystals, is making avalanches more probable.

  • The recent avalanches are several feet deep and breaking at the ground layer.

The big picture: The pandemic is driving a surge in interest for backcountry exploration — from skiing to snowmobiling.

  • Colorado officials recently developed a major education push aimed at new adventurers.

Nationally, the statistics are similarly bleak. The 35 avalanche deaths this season are one shy of the record 36 last reached more than a decade ago.

  • Colorado has the most avalanche deaths of any state.

Be smart: Learn how to travel safely in the backcountry.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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