An avalanche occurred over the weekend near Breckenridge, Colorado, marking the start to what could shape up to be a dangerous ski season in the backcountry.
According to an avalanche report on the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) website, a skier-triggered slide occurred on October 31 on the lower eastern face of Bald Mountain near Breckenridge at approximately 12,300 feet. As multiple skiers skinned uphill, a section of snow estimated to be two feet deep and 100 feet across broke off and slid approximately 1,000 feet downhill. No injuries, burials, or partial burials were mentioned in the report. This is the first skier-triggered avalanche since last spring to be reported on the CAIC website.
Danger LOW (1 of 5) in #CAICnmountains #CAICcmountains #CAICsmountains. In most areas there is not enough snow to trigger dangerous avalanches. Keep an eye out for isolated pockets of danger in high elevation north through northeast to east-facing slopes. https://t.co/E7yJWqyZwj pic.twitter.com/wBm2CB6iUG— CAIC:Statewide Info (@COAvalancheInfo) November 1, 2020
The report mentions that the slide was likely made up of newer wind-affected snow on a patch of older snow from September.
The October 31 avalanche was the second slide reported this avalanche season, with the first slide being a natural slide that occurred on September 10 in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness.
Some fear that this ski season could be particularly dangerous in Colorado's backcountry if the same pandemic-era uptick in outdoor recreation participation is present in the dangerous and technical sport of backcountry skiing. Not only can one person's lack of experience pose a dangerous threat to everyone on the mountain, an increased number of skiers on a potentially fragile slope can also increase the risk.
If you're planning to ski in the backcountry this season, take an avalanche safety course first, use the proper safety equipment every time, and stay up-to-date on conditions by utilizing websites like the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, OpenSnow.com, and the Mountain Forecast website.
Terrain around Colorado is currently experiencing a "low" avalanche risk rating, though some areas of danger can still exist. Conditions are always subject to change and will likely do so when up to 20 inches of snow hits Colorado this weekend. If you're entering the backcountry, do so knowing that an inherent and extreme risk exists.