Jan 12, 2023 - Sports

Colorado's deadly avalanche streak prompts new backcountry warning

An avalanche on Pumphouse Lake, southwest of Rollins Pass, that killed two snowmobilers. Photo: Courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center

An avalanche near Pumphouse Lake, southwest of Rollins Pass, that killed two snowmobilers. Photo: Courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Colorado is sounding the alarm after three fatal avalanche accidents in as many weeks, warning backcountry travelers to avoid deceptively hazardous conditions

Driving the news: The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an unusual warning ahead of the holiday weekend that draws more skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoers to snow-packed mountains.

  • A weak layer of early-season snow, followed by heavy recent snowfalls, is creating more frequent and larger avalanches.
  • "We looked at the calendar and said, 'We don't want a fourth accident,'" the center's director, Ethan Greene, told John.

By the numbers: Since Dec. 16, the center recorded 870 avalanches, far more than typical for the early season.

Be smart: The state's avalanche forecast map is not at its highest level, but Greene said conditions are not as stable in many areas as they seem. The usual dangerous signs are not visible in many areas, and backcountry travelers are remotely triggering slides hundreds of feet away.

  • "We need to get over this hump. The best way to do that is give the snowpack a break," he said.
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