Backcountry users warned of high avalanche danger for holiday weekend | SkyHiNews.com

Backcountry users warned of high avalanche danger for holiday weekend

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Colorado Avalanche Information Center USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region

325 Broadway, WSI 740 Simms Street

Boulder, CO 80305 Golden, CO 80401

Contact: Ethan Greene 303-204-6027 Contact: Steve Segin, 303-275-5346

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Dangerous avalanche conditions in backcountry areas of Colorado over the President’s Day holiday weekend

Two deaths and several serious injuries in the last 5 days

BOULDER, Colo.(Feb. 17, 2012) – Some of the most serious avalanche conditions in recent memory exist in the backcountry areas of Colorado, and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) and U.S. Forest Service are asking for maximum awareness from those who plan to head into the backcountry during the President’s Day weekend.

In the last five days there have been numerous human involvements in avalanches including two fatal accidents and several with serious injuries. Although Colorado’s winter started off dry, steady snowfall in January and February has created high-risk conditions. Triggered avalanches in the San Juan Mountains, for example, are increasing in size with some breaking over six feet deep and 600 feet wide.

According to the CAIC, avalanche conditions in the backcountry areas of Colorado this season are the worst in many years. Several recent accidents have involved very experienced backcountry travelers and off-duty professional avalanche workers. Six people on average lose their lives in avalanches in a Colorado winter. Already in the 2011-12 season there have been six deaths – with several months left in the active avalanche period.

The CAIC warning comes ahead of a traditionally busy President’s Day ski weekend that is expected to boast beautiful mountain weather. Don’t let the powder snow and blue skies fool you into thinking the avalanche conditions are anything less than very serious. You can reduce your risk by staying away from steep slopes. Avoid traveling on or under slopes steeper than 30 degrees. The warning is directed toward backcountry areas and does not involve ski areas, which carefully manage avalanche dangers.

Backcountry travelers should always travel in groups and carry appropriate avalanche safety equipment, including as a shovel, probe pole, and avalanche rescue beacon. Even seasoned backcountry veterans are encouraged to brush up on their rescue skills. Beacon practice, reviewing shoveling techniques and first aid refresher classes.

Since 1950 avalanches have killed more people in Colorado than in any other state. Colorado with its significant participation in winter sports accounts for one-third of all avalanche deaths in the United States. However the number of deaths per 100,000 backcountry users is lower in Colorado than in neighboring Rocky Mountain states in part because of the CAIC’s public education efforts.

If you are planning to recreate in backcountry areas, please check Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s website for current conditions (http://avalanche.state.co.us or http://www.colorado.gov/avalanche).

To learn more about avalanche safety, pick up a copy of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s free brochure, First Tracks. To get your free copy, call 303-866-2611 ext 0, or email pubscgs@state.co.us

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