Avalanche danger is here, experts warn, after skier triggers slide at Loveland Pass

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SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is warning backcountry users about potentially dangerous conditions following Tuesday’s snowstorm.

“We do get avalanches in Colorado in October,” CAIC’s Ethan Greene told FOX31. “It doesn’t happen every year.”

However, Colorado is already seeing avalanches this year. On Sunday, a backcountry skier posted a video showing a small slide on Loveland Pass. CAIC shared it to help educate the public about conditions.

“In this one there’s a fellow who’s on skis near Loveland Pass and he’s walking down a ridgeline and kind of going into the deeper snow a little bit, and he creates some cracks that shoot across the slope and create a small but significant avalanche,” Greene said.

Why early-season avalanches in Colorado are different

According to Greene, early-season avalanches typically do not contain enough snowpack to bury anyone caught in it. However, they pose a different danger.

“The real danger is the terrain,” he said. “You go for a little ride in a small avalanche, but there’s not much snow cover so you get beat up along the rocks,” Greene said.

Frontcountry areas along Interstate 70 and groomed ski runs are not part of the warning since CDOT and ski areas do avalanche mitigation work.

“We’re really talking about the wild areas of Colorado,” Greene said. “It’s going to be very localized, very steep terrain and high areas.”

In addition to backcountry skiers, hunters and hikers could also find themselves in avalanche terrain.

“People that are getting into the mountains to bag peaks, people that are high up,” Greene said, “The main thing to really do is watch your slope angle. If you’re worried about avalanches and you’re not sure what to do, stay off of steep slopes and you can drop your risks substantially.”

Greene urges backcountry users to also follow the weather forecast and conditions very closely on a daily basis leading up to an outing.

“This is a time of year when we do see rapidly changing conditions. The difference between two days ago and tomorrow [is] pretty substantial,” he said.

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