A “very large avalanche” was triggered by a snowboarder on the west side of the Eisenhower Tunnel on Thursday, highlighting the dangers of entering the backcountry amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The avalanche buried a road above the portal.
“The potential to trigger avalanches large enough to kill or injure a person is real right now,” warned the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).
The avalanche released on a northwest-facing slope above treeline in a thin rocky area, dumping snow over the loop road above the tunnel portal. The road was open at the time of the slide. It’s unclear if any cars were involved.
The CAIC is asking backcountry travelers to recreate responsibly in the time of COVID-19, which includes “following social distancing requirements, not taking actions that risk pulling emergency service workers away from the important work they’re doing, or compromising their ability to continue that work.”
More than 1,800 avalanches have been reported in Colorado this season (since Oct. 2019) and ski resorts closed statewide, search and rescue teams are seeing a high number of call-outs. Recently, eight were caught in various avalanches over a 3-day period and one snowboarder prompted more than 30 team members to respond to a search and rescue mission.
As of Thursday, 1,430 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Colorado. The number of positive cases jumped 344 cases in one day, with 184 individuals hospitalized and 24 deaths. More than 10,00 people have been tested, with the virus found in 39 of the state’s 64 counties.
Gov. Jared Polis has ordered the state’s 5.7 million residents to stay at home to fight the spread of the virus. Read more here.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Fresh powder or not, please stay out of the backcountry and monitor conditions and warnings. First responders and search and rescue operations may be limited right now due to COVID-19 response. Stay safe, maintain social distancing, and check the daily avalanche forecast at colorado.gov/avalanche.