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.
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.
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.
Out-of-bounds treks focus on backcountry education
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 “Skiing: Kirkwood launches snowcat tours for the season”→
Avalanche incidents on the rise in the backcountry
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 “Winter storm winding up across Colorado”→
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.