DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee is drafting new legislation to pay for better avalanche forecasting across the state. The committee voted last week to spend $1 million to help the Colorado Avalanche Information Center change from a fixed zone forecast to a flexible zone method.
The current fixed zone method issues avalanche forecasts for pre-determined regions in Colorado. The new flexible zone method divides regions into subregions based on avalanche conditions.
The General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee said the current fixed zone method is less consistent than a flexible zone method, which should make it easier to plan recreation in the backcountry.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center will receive $1 million in annual funding from the new Keep Colorado Wild state parks pass, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, but those dollars will not reach the avalanche center until fiscal year 2024-25. During the interim, the Joint Budget Committee recommended both the House and Senate support a one-time appropriation of $1,075,419 into the avalanche center’s coffers for the equipment and remote monitoring systems.
Meanwhile, avalanche experts in Canada switched to a flexible forecasting model last year using daily regional boundaries.
“This new system allows our forecasts to more accurately reflect backcountry conditions as our regions are now determined by the avalanche conditions,” Avalanche Canada reported on its website. “We’ve made these changes to tackle one of our biggest problems, with our old system, where conditions would often vary significantly across some of our larger regions.”