(CBS4) – A total of 4 people have died from avalanches so far this season in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and experts are warning that the number could go up because of snow conditions in the backcountry.
“I walked a little further and was on this big flat area, what I did was jump up and down to see if I could trigger the avalanche,” Jason Konigsberg, Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecaster said.
Konigsberg went up to the Sawatch Range on Christmas Eve. He observed an area that he suspected might be prone to an avalanche, and just as he was inspecting the area, cracks starting to shoot out. However, it’s like this in much of the backcountry.
“The main story so far this year is that we got a really bad snow back structure,” Brian Lazar, CAIC said.
Lazar tells CBS4 there are pronounced weaker layers on the slopes, making them easy to disturb.
“They need just the weight of a person to get this slope to fail,” he said.
Avalanches can also be triggered from a distance, by skiers, snow showers, snowmobilers, or naturally. These conditions may remind some of what happened in March 2019, when Colorado saw historic avalanches.
“So what was much different about that was that avalanche conditions were so dangerous and so in your face, most people simply avoided the backcountry,” Lazar said.
Currently, the CAIC rates half of the backcountry forecast as 3 out of 5 on the danger scale. They’re advising people not to go on slopes steeper than 30 degrees.
“I think for everybody, the video shows that we have some unstable conditions and potentially dangerous avalanche conditions in a lot of areas so just get the forecast before you go,” Konigsberg added.
In addition, Lazar reminds everyone to bring proper gear; a transceiver, and probe to pinpoint location, as well as a shovel to dig out, or for air pockets to breathe.