Avalanche danger considerable as Colorado sees first fatal slide of season | SteamboatToday.com

Avalanche danger considerable as Colorado sees first fatal slide of season

An aerial photo from a Classic Air Medical helicopter shows the path of an avalanche that injured a Routt County Search and Rescue volunteer during a mission Jan. 12, 2017, on Buffalo Mountain.
Matt Stensland

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Avalanche danger remained considerable Monday for the Steamboat Springs area, a day after a skier was killed in a slide in Southwest Colorado.

The fatal avalanche was the first one to occur this season in Colorado.

It happened in a backcountry gully between Red Mountain Pass and the town of Silverton at an elevation of 11,200 feet, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Staff from CAIC visited the site Sunday, and a detailed report was expected later this week.

CAIC has rated the avalanche danger for most Colorado mountains — including the Steamboat zone — as considerable.

According to CAIC, skiers in the Steamboat and Flat Tops areas should avoid traveling on or under all steep slopes, especially where there is more than about eight inches of new snow or wind-blown snow.

“You are likely to trigger a large, possibly deadly, avalanche on any steep slopes that face west through north to southeast,” CAIC wrote. “In these areas, the new snow rests above a very weak snowpack.”

Avalanches triggered in those areas are likely to break near the ground.

“Avalanches will be larger and more dangerous in areas where the wind has built deeper stiffer slabs,” CAIC wrote. “To reduce your risk from avalanches stick to slopes with a slope angle of less than about 30 degrees and stay out from under steeper, locally-connected terrain.”

Last season, there were three significant avalanche incidents in the Steamboat area.

A snowmobile triggered an avalanche on Rabbit Ears Pass on Dec. 11, 2016. Three riders were buried, but everyone had avalanche safety equipment and survived.

On Jan. 12, 2017, an avalanche in the Fish Creek drainage injured a Routt County Search and Rescue member who was on his way to rescue two lost skiers.

On Feb. 14, 2017, Jesse Christensen was killed in a slide while riding a snowbike in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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