With more snow headed to the high country this weekend, officials warn that the avalanche danger will be high.
Colorado saw its first avalanche death this past Sunday. Michelle Lindsay, a 29-year-old from Fort Collins, suffocated after she was buried by a powerful slide while backcountry skiing northwest of Estes Park.
So far, 11 people have been caught in avalanches this season, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. That’s higher than the numbers reported at this time in each of the last five years.
Special avalanche advisories continue today for most mountain areas, including Summit County, Steamboat and the San Juans. The National Weather Service expects a winter storm watch to continue at higher elevations through Sunday, and the Front Range will also see snow.
Most avalanche-related fatalities happen from December through February, according to the Avalanche Information Center. Colorado saw eight deaths last winter, more than the annual average of six.
Avalanches happen on steep slopes after heavy snowfall covers snow and ice that leftover from October and November. Those older layers have since weakened, making it more susceptible to slides that could result from this weekend’s storms, forecaster Spencer Logan said.
Officials encourage backcountry skiers to use proper safety equipment. That includes avalanche transceivers, probes and a shovel, according to the National Ski Patrol.
“Checking the forecast, learning to recognize avalanche terrain, understanding how to use the avalanche safety equipment that you’re carrying and (being) able to conduct an effective avalanche rescue if you have to (are) good first steps,” Logan said.