Colorado: avalanche country


Photo Credit: Creative Commons

An avalanche falls in the Himalayas near Mount Everest, showing the power that avalanche can have. Colorado has been experiencing an absurd amount of avalanches in the past month, causing new avalanche records for the state.

Marlee Mikesell, Ranger Review Reporter

An avalanche is a natural event that occurs when a slab of snow is lying on weaker layer snow that breaks and the snow slides down the slope. said, “Most avalanches are ‘naturally’ triggered meaning that weather (wind, snow, rain or sun) stresses the snow to it’s breaking point.” However, not all avalanches are natural, as some can be caused by earthquakes or animal movement.

The state of Colorado has seen several avalanches occur in the past two weeks, more than the state has ever seen. These avalanches have led to traffic delays, road closures and even fatal injuries. Even areas that are usually not prone to avalanches are under extreme avalanche watch.

Avalanche danger has been increasing substantially over the past week in Colorado. According to, 2,000 avalanches have been recorded in Colorado in total, and 288 of them have happened in the week of April 4th alone.

These avalanches have lead to several road closures on major Highways in Colorado. Highways such as Highway 91,  Highway 71 and I-70 from Copper Mountain to Vail have all seen closures over the past few weeks. These closures have been affecting people’s travel plans.  Accuweather is warning drivers that are heading into the mountains this weekend that the road conditions may not be safe as the day goes on, as there are several avalanche watches.

I-70 is a main highway in Colorado, which not only skiers and travelers use the interstate, but for some people, that is their daily commute. It is also how a lot of truck drivers deliver the goods that are needed, but with the icy conditions and traffic, it is adding a severe element of danger.

No matter the season, the Interstate 70 corridor is bustling with trucks delivering important goods,’’ Fox 31 Denver said. “Truck drivers must abide by state chain laws during icy weather, and that carries an extra risk.”

Not only are roads receiving closures, but ski resorts are closing some of the slopes, as they under extreme avalanche danger. Ski resorts, such as Arapahoe Basin and Breckenridge, have been closed down temporarily until avalanche watches have been lifted. Colorado Avalanche Information Center has predicted extreme avalanche danger in Vail, Aspen and Summit County. Over the past year, Colorado has had a 156% increase in students coming for spring break, making the closures even more impactful as they will be impacting students ski plans.

Even though there have been avalanche warnings, some people have not listened to the warnings and Colorado has seen several fatalities over the past week. Backcountry skier Hans Berg died while backcountry skiing, as well as Owen Green and Michael Goerne, who died backcountry skiing in Crested Butte. Many others have been hospitalized due to avalanches as well. Cars have also been swallowed by the snow as the avalanches have buried the highways, making people get stuck in their car for hours.

Until the avalanches can come to a hold, CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) and the CAIC will be warning drivers and travelers about the extreme avalanche danger Colorado is facing.