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Colorado: Backcountry avalanche danger persists

Numerous slides reported from the Vail-Summit and Front Range mountains

Beautiful tracks in a dangerous spot.

SUMMIT COUNTY — A few days of sunny and relatively warm conditions haven’t eased the backcountry avalanche danger by much, according to forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The hazard is rated as considerable in nearly all the mountains of Colorado — with the exception of the south San Juans. With dense slabs sitting atop a weak base of faceted sugar snow, natural slides are still likely in some spots, and backcountry travelers can easily trigger avalanches by hitting weak spots in the snowpack

Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making are all required for safe travel in the backcountry, according to the CAIC’s latest bulletin.

There have been numerous avalanches in popular backcountry and sidecountry areas the past few days, including a large slide just southwest of Loveland Pass that may have caught four members of a group in the area, resulting in one partial burial.

Slides involving backcountry travelers were also reported from the Montezuma backcountry, the Vail Pass area and the Front Range, where backcountry tourers triggered a large avalanche on the southeast face of Trelease, north of Loveland Pass.

According to the CAIC, the Trelease slide was 600 feet wide, up to 10 feet deep and was triggered near treeline, on low angle terrain several hundred vertical feet below the starting zone. The party held onto trees, and only their dog may have been caught and carried. South of Jones Pass, snowmobilers remotely triggered a large (R3D3) avalanche on an east aspect above treeline.

Recent reports of natural slides include a release on Quandary Peak
and a large release  on an east aspect above treeline in Current Creek, north of Berthoud Pass. Windloading overwhelmed the slope. Observers caught the avalanche on video.

Finally, a group of skiers using snowmobiles to access backcountry terrain above Montezuma witnessed a snowboarder trigger a large slab in slide-prone terrain. The rider was high up in the starting zone and was able ride out the first part of the slide, then deployed a floatation device and escaped unharmed.

The accident was captured on video and first posted on the Backcountry Access website, where a lively discussion about the slide ensued.

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One Response

  1. I wonder, do all the participants have those flotation devices, if not, why not? It seems like a no-brainer to have such if one is going to play in such conditions.

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