DENVER — Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 — Gov. John Hickenlooper joined the Colorado Avalanche Information Center today to ask Coloradans to heed warnings of high avalanche danger in many parts of the backcountry. Four people have died in avalanches so far this season in Colorado and heavy mountain snowfall continues to create hazardous conditions.
“We understand Coloradans love for the outdoors in all seasons. We want to encourage backcountry travelers to pay close attention to warnings from the Avalanche Information Center,” Hickenlooper said. “Conditions in the backcountry this winter are dangerous and exercising common sense caution can prevent tragedy.”
Hickenlooper was briefed today on conditions by CAIC Director Ethan Greene and Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike King. Separate avalanches on Monday killed two people and significant snowfall continues to create high-risk conditions.
“We want people to enjoy the spectacular recreation Colorado offers, but we also want people to pay close attention to conditions,” Hickenlooper said. “Another day or another route might be a better option.”
The latest advisory from the CAIC calls for “cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making. Travel in or below avalanche terrain is not recommended.”
“Following a period of prolonged heavy snowfall, deeply buried persistent weak layers are at a tipping point,” the advisory says. “Several very large avalanches have been triggered by backcountry travelers and explosives. Veteran snow professionals are reporting triggered avalanches in well documented avalanche paths that are breaking mature timber and behaving in surprising ways.”
Those surprises include avalanches breaking into multiple avalanche paths and large amounts of snow in the lower portion of the avalanche path creating avalanches with greater mass, Greene said.
There are numerous resources for backcountry recreationalists to consult when considering activities. The primary location for avalanche warnings and forecasts is the CAIC website. The CAIC also communicates through Twitter, with handles associated with all major mountain regions. Those handles are: Steamboat and Flat Tops @CAICsteamboat; Front Range @CAICfrontrange; Vail and Summit County @CAICsummit; Sawatch Range @CAICsawatch; Aspen @CAICaspen; Gunnison @CAICgunnison; Grand Mesa @CAICgrandmesa; Northern San Juan @CAICnthsanjuan; Southern San Juan @CAICsthsanjuan; and Sangre de Cristo @CAICsangrecrist.