Avalanches impact Colorado

This is an image of an avalanche. The amount of snow is impressive and very dangerous and devastating.

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This is an image of an avalanche. The amount of snow is impressive and very dangerous and devastating.

Lara Olagne, Ranger Review Reporter

Avalanches kill about 50 people each year. In 2020 in the United States, it was the cause of 37 deaths according to the Statista Research Department. Colorado is known for its mountains and multiple ski resorts like Breckenridge, Keystone or Copper Mountain. Colorado is the seventh state with the most snowfall, getting about 11,350 feet per year according to Colorado Avalanches Information Center (CAIC). 

It is the state with the most deaths because of avalanches with a number of 293 between 1951 and 2020 before Alaska with 161 with the information sourced from CAIC. Indeed Colorado has an average of 2,300 avalanches per year which is the highest in America, another statistic reported by CAIC. 

Colorado gets so many avalanches for two reasons. First, it is a very windy state and it moves the snow around which creates more avalanches. Also the state’s sunny winter weather melts snow during dry periods. This melted snow often becomes part of the unstable layers of slippery snow that can easily slide. 

Chris George, an MSU Denver graduate, is a global mountaineer and snow-science pioneer said, “I’ve climbed in Afghanistan and the Andes and the Alps. There’s one thing I’ve learned: The snowpack in southern Colorado or in the southern Rockies is probably the most unstable snow anywhere.”

Another problem is that Colorado is very attractive for backcountry skiers and snowshoers. As a matter of fact, on Saturday 9th of January two Summit County snowshoers and a dog were buried and killed by an avalanche on a flank of North Star Mountain between Breckenridge and Fairplay. According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the party triggered the snow slide around noon on Saturday. An avalanche rescue dog located the two hikers and their dog, all buried beneath avalanche debris and dead.

But that does not stop the backcountry skiers. Zachary Sanders, a junior at Lewis-Palmer still goes backcountry skiing very often.

“I really like backcountry skiing. The snow is so much better than in a normal station and you can find harder runs and create your own way,” Sanders said, “I know avalanches are a big deal in Colorado but it doesn’t really scare me. I have equipment for it and I just don’t go if the conditions are too dangerous.”