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Crowdfunding push aims to cut avalanche deaths

A wet snow avalanche in Tenmile Canyon, near Frisco, Colorado.

A wet snow avalanche in Tenmile Canyon, near Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Snowsports industry, safety agencies team up for Project Zero

Staff Report

With 25 backcountry avalanche deaths in the U.S. this winter, and eight in Colorado, mountain enthusiasts are launching a major crowdfunding push to boost the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The Colorado effort is part of an ambitious national push to reduce avalanche fatalities to zero by 2025. Project Zero is a collaboration between AIARE, Snowsports Industries America, Friends of the CAIC, the Utah Avalanche Center, Northwest Avalanche Center, Canadian Avalanche Centre, National Ski Areas Association and the National Ski Patrol.

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Avalanches kill two in Colorado

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High avalanche danger prevailed across the Colorado mountains when two backcountry skiers died in snow slides Feb. 10.

High slide danger persists across the mountains

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado’s exceptionally deep snowpack turned deadly this week, as a backcountry traveler near Kebler Pass was killed in a large avalanche. Search and rescue crews also found  another victim in the backcountry between Keystone and Breckenridge after a two-day search.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the Feb. 10 Kebler Pass slide involved two snowmobilers caught in a “very large avalanche” on a south- to southeast-facing slope below treeline. The slide broke between two to five-feet deep, about 600 feet wide and ran about 750 vertical feet. Debris at the bottom of the slide piled up to 20 feet deep.

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Colorado: Big slides likely in the backcountry

Forecasters issue avalanche advisory for Summit-Vail and Front Range mountain zones

An avalanche near Vail Pass, Colorado.

Big, dangerous slides like this slab avalanche in Uneva Bowl, near Vail Pass, are likely in the Colorado backcountry the next few days. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dangerous avalanche conditions will persist across most of Colorado’s mountains for the next few days, as new snow and winds combine to bring the snowpack to its breaking point. With more snow in the forecast, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an advisory for the Vail-Summit and Front Range zones, valid through 8 a.m. Monday (Jan. 12). Continue reading

Colorado: Avalanche kills snowboarder near Vail Pass

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A winter-like series of storms has resulted in considerable avalanche risks in parts of the Colorado backcountry.

Risk of slides persists in the backcountry

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s backcountry snowpack proved deadly for the sixth time this winter, as a snowboarder was killed Thursday by an avalanche in the backcountry near Vail Pass — specifically in an area known as Avalanche Bowl, on Ptarmigan Hill.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the accident involved a group of three skiers using snowmobiles to access fresh backcountry powder at a time when the snowpack was more winter-like than spring at higher elevations.

The CAIC reported that one of the riders was caught and washed into a stand of trees, where he likely died of injuries. The deep, persistent-slab avalanche likely released on a northerly aspect in a near-treeline area, according to the CAIC. Continue reading

Skiing: Kirkwood launches snowcat tours for the season

Out-of-bounds treks focus on backcountry education

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Kirkwood guests experience some sweet Sierra backcountry with a snowcat tour. Photo courtesy Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After picking up more than 260 inches of snow this season, Kirkwood Mountain Resort says its ready to launch its out-of-bounds cat-skiing trips for the late winter and spring season, with E:K Cat Tours taking advanced skiers and riders on an adventure to hunt down fresh turns with a focus on backcountry education and safety.

“Expedition:Kirkwood is the West Coast’s largest avalanche awareness and backcountry certification program, but what we’re really known for are the cat tours,” said Casey Blann, Kirkwood’s general manager. “This program is for the advanced skiers and riders who are looking for a completely unique resort experience. Not only gaining the skills for skiing and riding steep terrain, but hang on as your cat operator navigates his way up a road that’s not for the faint of heart.” Continue reading

Winter storm winding up across Colorado

Avalanche incidents on the rise in the backcountry

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A winter storm swirls across Colorado.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A slow-moving winter storm crossing Colorado Wednesday night through Thursday could deliver several more inches of snow to soften up the slopes for the incoming wave of holiday skiers.

The National Weather Service issued winter weather advisories for most of the western Colorado mountains, where 3 to 10 inches of snow could pile up by late Thursday night. Snow started falling in the southern mountains Wednesday morning under a southwest flow, but most ski areas only reported a trace as of Wednesday evening, with the exception of Silverton Mountain which reported 8 inches (36-inch base) in the afternoon snow report from Colorado Ski Country USA.

The heaviest snow in the central and northern mountains is expected after midnight. Winds from the west and northwest could bring 2 to 5 inches of snow to favored west-facing slopes. Light to moderate snow could continue into Thursday night before tapering off as high pressure builds into the region, bringing cold temperatures for late in the week and the first part of the weekend. Continue reading

Colorado: Backcountry avalanche danger reaches red zone

Natural avalanche cycle expected; triggered slides likely

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Backcountry avalanches have been reported from the Vail Pass area.

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High avalanche danger in parts of the high country, Click on the map for the interactive version on the CAIC website.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche watch for parts of the high country, from the Steamboat/Flattops zone down through the Grand Mesa and the Aspen/Gunnison area, where dangerous avalanche conditions prevail.

Forecasters expect to see a natural cycle of small to mediu, slides during the next 24 hours, and triggered avalanches are likely in many backcountry areas. Any paths that don’t slide naturally could be prone to large avalanches in the coming days, CAIC forecaster Scott Toepfer wrote in the Tuesday morning update.

Snowfall rates in some mountain areas could reach 2 inches per hour, leading to rapid additional loading on top of a weak base layer — an ideal recipe for dangerous snow slides. Fresh storm slabs will be easily triggered by backcountry travelers, and winds will lead to the formation of brittle wind slaps on lee slopes.

More often than not, the season’s first significant storm cycle leads to avalanche accidents, as eager skiers and riders head out to sample the fresh powder — don’t become a statistic. Practice safe route-finding and stay away from steeper slopes near and above treeline, where triggered slides are almost certain.

Check the CAIC website for updated before heading into the backcountry.

 

 

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