Colorado is currently experiencing a once-in-a-decade snowpack making conditions in the backcountry extremely dangerous. Conditions haven’t been this bad in Colorado since 2012, and the poor snowpack has caused over 15 deaths in the first week of February. This has been the deadliest week on record since 1910, with eight deaths being Coloradans.
These conditions are seen once every 10 years, and avalanches are running rampant across multiple terrain features. Steamboat Springs and the Flat Tops region of the state warn that the recent snowfall has caused a thick, dense slab to rest on top of weaker layers created earlier in the season. Use extreme caution around slopes steeper than 30 degrees as well as cliffs and gullies.
Colorado’s mountainous regions are currently under level 3 – considerable – avalanche risk with a Special Avalanche Advisory in effect until Monday night. There were close to 30 avalanches recorded just on Saturday, and the risk will likely remain high as more snowfall is expected. The snowpack is weak down low, and extra weight and winds make the slides happen. It’s not uncommon with such conditions to see 150-meter wide avalanches ranging from 3 to 12 feet deep.
Be conservative with your terrain choices as uncertainty is high, conditions are dangerous, and the backcountry is more populated. One of eight deaths by avalanches in the state has been highly experienced riders over 40 with considerable time logged in the backcountry. Ensure you have the right equipment and avalanche mitigation procedures in place. Avoid avalanche terrain, and remember that slides can be triggered from below even without being on the slope. Be cautious and stay safe out there!