BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Authorities are warning about avalanches in the high country after a slide Thursday killed a man on a snowmobile near Kebler Pass in the Gunnison National Forest. Another man’s body was recovered on Saturday from an avalanche on St. Mary’s Glacier.

The man who died on St. Mary’s Glacier was the first avalanche death in Colorado this year.

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Much of the state is at moderate or considerable risk. It’s important of knowing the facts when it comes to avalanches. Colorado averages about five to six avalanche deaths each year. This year the state is actually running behind that average because there weren’t any early season fatalities.

The avalanche on St. Mary's Glacier (credit: CAIC)

The avalanche on St. Mary’s Glacier (credit: CAIC)

The slide on Kebler Pass (credit: Colorado Avalanche Information Center)

The slide on Kebler Pass (credit: Colorado Avalanche Information Center)

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But the way snow builds up, and how much falls at once greatly impacts avalanche risk. Avalanche forecaster Scott Toepfer says he’s seeing a recipe right now for some big avalanches to come. He says people are really only safe in the backcountry when risk is low. Even avalanches that happen when just moderate risk exists can kill people.


“You really only have about 15 minutes to have a 90 percent chance of survival. If it’s over 30 minutes your chances of survival drop below 50 percent,” Toephfer said. “So things happen really fast.”

Toephfer encourages everyone headed into the back country to take avalanche education classes.

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LINK: Colorado Avalanche Information Center