Avalanche risk is already present in Colorado despite the lack of early season snow. According to a report to the Colorado Avalanche Center a skier was caught in a human-caused avalanche burial on Monday near Marble.
The small avalanche occurred in a small gully near a grouping of trees at about 10,400 feet of elevation. As the first skier crossed a steeper section of terrain the slide carried the skier downhill. The skier was uninjured and didn’t require any sort of official search and rescue effort.
While most of the terrain being crossed by skiers in the group at the time was lower angle, small sections of steeper slope were present. According to someone at the scene, ‘complacency’ was a factor in the avalanche burial.
When the slide was triggered, the group was returning to their car. They had previously noted “major instabilities” at higher elevations. However, the terrain they were traveling just prior to the avalanche is described as having a “gentle slope angle”. It was so low-angle that it was impossible to maintain momentum.
The author of the report wrote: “This slide was a sharp reminder of the potential consequences of any backcountry terrain, even in the relatively benign areas that we traverse on approaches to and exists from the main ski runs.”
Those entering the backcountry in Colorado should know that avalanche risk is already present. This example shows that low risk terrain can still have localized high risk areas that should not be overlooked.
Currently the avalanche risk in Colorado is rated as moderate to considerable. Levels two and three on a five-level scale.
Avalanche observation reports made by both officials and the public indicate that there have been 219 slides so far this season. Unobserved and unreported slides have probably occurred in addition to those.
If you’re entering the backcountry this season, do so only with the proper training and equipment.