November, 2020

The Colorado Avalanche Center (CAIC) recently published a report related to how the COVID-19 pandemic and correlated surge of backcountry use has impacted avalanche numbers in Colorado. One key finding was that while the number of backcountry beginners involved in snow avalanches stayed similar before and after the pandemic and the number of intermediate users involved in avalanches actually decreased, the number of advanced skiers involved in avalanches spiked.

Another trend discovered in the report was that more avalanche-related accidents occurred during ‘considerable’ avalanche risk days, despite less total ‘considerable’ risk days during the season.

During their analysis, the Avalanche Center categorized those involved in avalanches based on their skill level. Fifteen percent were beginner, 25 percent were intermediate, 47 percent were advanced, and 8 percent were expert.

According to the CAIC Avalanche Center, results from this study align with previous research that has indicated that avalanche education does not reduce avalanche exposure.

Another interesting finding from the CAIC study was that most avalanche incidents during the 2019-2020 season occurred during level 2 (moderate) risk, accounting for 60 percent of incidents. Thirty percent of avalanches occurred during level 3 risk (considerable) risk.

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