Avalanches have killed twenty-five people this season. If you are visiting Summit County, be careful about heading to the back country. Every year a deadly avalanche strikes Colorado with incredible force, and this year has been no exception. According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Colorado wins the award for the highest number of fatalities due to avalanches. Lucky us. Although CAIC reports that snowmobilers perish more often than any other outdoorsman, often those killed are expert skiers whove studied the area and are sure they can handle the conditions. This year, a grandson of one of Vails founding fathers was killed in the East Vail shoots. It is an area known for bad slides, and unfortunately Tony Seibert could not out-ski the tumbling snow. Experts say there was no way he could have survived.
Usually, ski patrol will trigger inbound avalanches by using explosives. They track and plate the snow to make it safe. Should they feel its still not safe, they close the trail. NEVER duck a rope or enter an area that has been closed. Last year, a 14-year-old boy was killed hiking up to a closed, inbound area.
Its difficult to protect oneself from an avalanche. However, there are some measures that can help limit the risk of death. Ski shops rent beacons, shovels, and back country gear. Most avalanches occur in the back country when conditions are unpredictable. Large amounts of snow, followed by warm weather can trigger avalanches. The media will often warn skiers if the danger is high, but its best to find out what the conditions are like for yourself. A back country skier can link to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center
It goes without saying, never ski alone. Study. Learn. Pray. Be careful. Or just stick to the resorts!