Colorado's backcountry has seen quite a bit of snow recently, increasing the avalanche risk and resulting in several natural and human-triggered slides around the state, including one near Vail Pass and another near Berthoud Pass.
The 28 avalanches have been reported on the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) website from November 23rd to November 27, with nearly 60 avalanches reported so far this snow season.
Four of the slides triggered this week were the result of avalanche mitigation work, nine were caused by skiers and snowboarders, and one by a snowmobiler. Additional reports include natural causes or unintentional releases.
Here's a look at an avalanche set off by a backcountry rider on Wednesday at Berthoud Pass. The backcountry ski area is located directly on U.S. Highway 40, just east of the Continental Divide.
Luckily, no one was injured when another human-triggered avalanche broke near Vail Pass on Thursday. Despite being relatively small, the unexpected slide could have resulted in serious injury for anyone caught.
Following the recent spike in avalanche activity, the CAIC reminded backcountry riders to "pay attention to warning signs like cracking and collapsing."
Steep slopes should also be avoided, especially those facing north and northeast where "cohesive slabs" of snow are often formed by wind.
#CAICSSanJuan MOD(2of5) The avalanche danger is slowly easing but you can still trigger an avalanche in wind-drifted snow on north to northeast through east slopes in alpine. Look for and avoid textured pillows below ridgelines or in cross-loaded gullies. https://t.co/2EC1fFh9UA pic.twitter.com/pChHk7djpr— CAIC:Statewide Info (@COAvalancheInfo) November 27, 2020
The risk of avalanches is currently ranging from "low" to "moderate" as of Thursday morning. While the danger is slowly easing, careful snowpack and terrain evaluation is crucial for avoiding accidents.
"With a relatively shallow early season's snowpack, it is not difficult to affect these layers and create a failure," the CAIC stated in a recent report. "It is best to avoid traveling on steep wind-loaded slopes where these conditions exist."
Editor's Note: Always check the forecast and current conditions before heading to the mountains. Keep avalanche safety top of mind while exploring the backcountry (and take an avalanche safety course). For more information about the avalanches that occur in the state and current risk levels, please visit colorado.gov/avalanche.