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Avalanche Danger High

Officials Warn of High Avalanche Danger in Colorado Northern Mountains

DENVER, COLORADO, DEC 10, 2023 – Colorado’s northern mountains, including popular areas like Winter Park, Aspen, Vail, and Beaver Creek, are currently facing a high risk of avalanches, with the Avalanche Danger Scale reaching “HIGH” (4 out of 5) today. This warning comes amidst a series of weather events that have significantly increased avalanche dangers across the state.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) forecasts that strong winds on Sunday, December 10, will exacerbate already dangerous conditions. The center advises against venturing onto steep, northerly, and easterly-facing slopes, particularly those accumulating wind-drifted snow. The likelihood of naturally occurring avalanches in some areas is significant, and even flat areas beneath steep slopes are at risk.

Fox 31 reported on Saturday, December 9, that the avalanche danger had escalated following fresh snowfall, which deposited up to 14 inches of snow in some mountain areas over 48 hours. Ethan Greene, Director of CAIC, highlighted the combination of recent weather events and current conditions contributing to the heightened risk. He also noted that areas could reach a high level of avalanche danger by Sunday, with winds drifting snow onto easterly slopes and worsening conditions.

A recent field report cited an avalanche triggered by two people in Moonlight Basin, emphasizing the unpredictability and severity of the current situation. Greene urges those planning to enter avalanche-prone areas to consult the avalanche forecast and choose routes that avoid dangerous zones. So far this season, there have been 11 incidents involving 17 people caught in moving avalanche debris, though thankfully no fatalities.

Avalanche Safety Tips

For those venturing into potential avalanche terrain, it is crucial to be prepared and informed:

  1. Check Daily Forecasts: Always consult the CAIC avalanche forecast before heading out.
  2. Carry Proper Equipment: Ensure you have an avalanche transceiver, shovel, and probe.
  3. Educate Yourself: Take an avalanche safety course to understand risk assessment and rescue techniques.
  4. Avoid High-Risk Areas: Stay clear of steep, wind-loaded slopes as identified in forecasts.
  5. Travel in Small Groups: Maintain distance between group members to minimize risk.
  6. Have an Escape Route: Plan for safe zones and escape routes in case of an avalanche.
  7. Monitor Weather and Conditions: Be alert to changes in weather and snowpack conditions.
  8. Trust Your Instincts: If in doubt, err on the side of caution and choose a safer route.

This season, let’s prioritize safety and awareness to enjoy Colorado’s stunning winter landscapes without incident. Learn more about avalanche safety by reading our comprehensive mountain safety guide.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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