Local

No Need For Backcountry Skiers To Shy From Reporting Avalanches

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – All the spring snow is making for high avalanche danger in the northern mountains.

There’s an avalanche warning in place that lasts until Wednesday morning. The warning has already come to fruition. On the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website there are more than 20 reports of avalanches just since Sunday.

CBS4’s Jeff Todd talked with a group of volunteers who say reporting any and all avalanches is essential and they need the community’s help.

“We have noticed in the recent years the number of participants in the backcountry has gone up considerably,” rescuer Charles Pitman said.

That’s creating a big concern for rescuers like Pitman and the other 70 volunteers he works with in the Summit County Rescue Group.

With ski resorts closing and more snow encouraging people to head into the mountains for fresh tracks, the likely hood of an avalanche being triggered can’t be higher.

“We want to make sure that they understand that there’s nothing illegal about that, and it saves us a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of money if they call and report those,” Pitman said.

Right now Colorado is under its average for avalanche fatalities in a season, but there’s concern that number could go up with snow still falling and chairlifts not turning.

“What we’re concerned about is that when somebody does see one, and after the fact calls it in, perhaps an hour or two later, we have to respond and make sure that in fact nobody was caught, nobody was buried,” Pitman said.

The CAIC says wind and the new heavy snow is piling on top of a dangerous weak base layer that’s been seen all winter.

“Obviously in the last couple or three days it’s ratcheted up considerably,” Pitman said. “We’re always sort of on the hair trigger on days like this … because if something does go off we have to react very, very quickly.”

Reporting avalanches isn’t just a problem in Summit County. From Gunnison to Aspen there are similar reporting problems. It’s believed people are just afraid to report and think there will be a reproduction or cost.

Rescues by the volunteer groups are free. They just still urge to call 911 or the local dispatch center to report slides.

LINK: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

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