SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Those hoping to ski steep Colorado terrain away from the crowds may want to reconsider at least until the backcountry snowpack settles, according to local search and rescue groups.
“There is definitely interest in getting in the backcountry. Lots of people have different reasons for that, but we’re busy,” said Dan Burnett, Mission Coordinator for the Summit County Rescue Group.READ MORE: Weekend Avalanche Deaths In The Backcountry Bring Total To 10 Fatalities In Colorado This Season
The total number of avalanche fatalities across the U.S. hit 25 on Sunday following two separate accidents in Colorado. This compared to 23 in all last season; the first fatality was on Dec. 8, 2019 and the last on April 28, 2020.
Call volume for the Summit County Rescue group has remained steady lately, but the group is ready if things pick up. So far, fatalities have occurred in every county surrounding Summit.
In January, the neighboring Alpine Rescue Group reported double the call volume it had in January of 2020.
“Across the state as a whole, you’re definitely seeing more people getting out in the backcountry. There’s also a theory that you’re seeing the experienced folks push further into the backcountry to get away from the crowds and that may be contributing to the avalanche deaths with experienced skiers, boarder and snowmobilers,” said Anna DeBatiste, Public Information Officer for the Summit County Rescue Group and Colorado Rescue Group.READ MORE: Denver’s Matt Nyman, Delta Force Veteran And Adaptive Mountaineer, To Receive Arlington Military Funeral
Burnett agrees and reiterated what other experts have said: the snowpack right now isn’t good. Not only is coverage still sparse due to a slow start to the season, but a deep weak layer exists from older early season snow and conditions are historically unstable.
“People are pushing the envelope and you know pushing the edge of what’s safe and in a low snowpack year like this, there definitely is only certainly places that you can even ski,” said Burnett.
DeBatiste said rescuers aren’t trying to discourage people from recreating in the backcountry.
“For now, stay away from and out from below slopes that are steeper than 30 degrees,” she said.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, conditions across the state are considerable.
All Colorado Search and Rescue members are volunteer. Consider donating to your local search and rescue team to help support the costs of rescues.