Governor Jared Polis issued a stern warning to Coloradans on Thursday, notifying the public of “extremely dangerous” avalanche conditions in the backcountry ahead of the long Presidents Day holiday weekend.
Officials say the avalanche risk is extremely elevated this year due to "exceptionally weak" snowpack.
“Due to our dry fall and cold temperatures, the backcountry is extremely dangerous right now, as evidenced by record deadly avalanches that have tragically taken eight Coloradans this year,” stated Gov. Jared Polis. “Everyone must be prepared to take extra precautions and check the avalanche forecast, particularly if your plans include traveling into Colorado’s backcountry.”
Eight lives have been claimed so far by avalanches this season in Colorado. The first deadly avalanche of the season occurred on Friday, December 18th. A skier was found dead after being hit by a slide in the Gunnison zone on the northeast end of the Anthracite Range near Crested Butte. Most recently, three skiers were killed in a slide between Silverton and Ophir.
“We want our outdoor community to be able to enjoy everything a Colorado winter has to offer and live life outside, but we also want you to return home safely after your outdoor adventure,” said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow. “It doesn’t matter what outdoor activity you enjoy this winter, whether you ski, snowshoe, ice fish, hike, bike or go snowmobiling, it’s important to respect and know trail and area closures before you go and adjust your activity to make sure you have a safe and fun outdoor experience.”
With nearly three feet of snow forecasted to fall over parts of the state this weekend, the avalanche danger remains extremely high. Several zones remain under an avalanche watch, including Steamboat, Flat Tops, Gunnison, Aspen, and Grand Mesa.
An Avalanche Watch is in effect for the Steamboat/Flat Tops, Gunnison, Aspen, and Grand Mesa zones. Winds and snowfall increase the avalanche danger to HIGH (Level 4 of 5) by Saturday.https://t.co/E7yJWqyZwj#CAICSteamboat #CAICAspZone #CAICGunnison #CAICGrandMesa #COwx pic.twitter.com/tuH2B0Vs3f— CAIC:Statewide Info (@COAvalancheInfo) February 12, 2021
The days between January 30th and February 7th mark the deadliest period for avalanches in the US since 1910.
Editor's Note: If you're planning to enter the backcountry this winter, it's highly recommended that you take an avalanche safety course first. Utilize avalanche safety gear and stay up-to-date on both the weather and avalanche risk forecasts. Find the avalanche risk forecast on the CAIC website and find snow reports on OpenSnow.com and weather.gov.