(COLORADO) — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) reports a string of fatal accidents and continuing dangerous avalanche conditions this upcoming holiday weekend, and is urging people to heed avalanche danger warnings and stop the tragic trend.

Closed Avalanche Danger Sign

With more snow in the forecast for the high country, the CAIC is warning everyone to heed the dangers and watch for warning signs. The trend is worrying, as there has been a fatal avalanche accident each of the last three weekends since Dec. 26, which have claimed the lives of four people.

  • Dec. 26 Nitro Chute, north of Berthoud Pass – four backcountry tourers caught, two fully buried, one killed
  • Dec. 31 Number 5, Carter Gulch southwest of Breckenridge – two skiers caught, one partially buried, one buried and killed
  • Jan. 7 Pumphouse Lake, southwest of Rollins Pass – two snowmobilers caught, both buried and killed

“Dangerous avalanche conditions will last through the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend,” said Ethan Greene, Director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Early-season snowfall followed by heavy snow in early December and early January created dangerous avalanche conditions, according to the CAIC.

“We have seen more avalanches this year than we do on a typical year, and recently they’ve gotten much bigger,” said Greene. “We want everyone to enjoy the wonderful public lands in Colorado, and go home alive and well to their family and friends on Monday. We need everyone headed into the backcountry to plan their trip carefully and make sure they avoid avalanche hazards. We need to stop this deadly trend.”

People may not see the usual danger signs, but still be in a dangerous area, the CAIC said.

How can you protect yourself and your loved ones?

  • Check the avalanche forecast before going into the backcountry – the CAIC said this includes easy-to-access backcountry like right off the highway or leaving any ski area through a backcountry access points. 
  • Make sure you and every member of your group carry an avalanche-rescue transceiver.
  • Carry rescue equipment like a probe pole and a shovel – and know how to use this equipment.

The CAIC said signs of higher avalanche danger include recent avalanches, cracking in the snow, and audible collapsing. Avoid traveling on or under similar slopes. Most avalanches happen during or soon after a big snowstorm, period of strong winds, or during a thaw (rapid increase in temperature).