After the recent 27 inch snow storm that we got in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, it got us thinking about avalanches and how we could do our part in helping you stay safe in the backcountry. So... we reached out to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to get their top "know before you go" tips. Below is what they recommend before you go hunting for powder stashes:
Avalanches are a dangerous natural hazard in Colorado and kill 6 people in an average year. Since 1950, avalanches have killed more people in Colorado than any other natural hazard. You can control your risk by getting good information about the current avalanche conditions and basic avalanche safety and then using that information to inform where you go and when.
Most people killed and injured in avalanches are involved in backcountry winter recreation–including hikers, snowmobilers, skiers, and others traveling in the backcountry. Those recreating or traveling in the backcountry should always check the avalanche forecast at www.colorado.gov/avalanche
not only before heading out but before making a plan. You can type in the name of the place you’re going or a nearby geographic feature to get current avalanche information and the danger rating for that area.
The Avalanche Forecast has an avalanche danger rating for three elevation bands: below, near, and above treeline. It has a short summary of the avalanche conditions along with up to three avalanche problems, including the: avalanche problem type, location or where you’ll find the problem, likelihood of triggering, and avalanche size, and some helpful hints for dealing with each one. The forecast has images and videos that illustrate the avalanche issues described in the forecast.
Once you are equipped with this information, you can make a plan to manage your risk, which might be avoiding avalanche terrain altogether.
Most avalanches happen on slopes between 30-50 degrees, so those wanting to avoid avalanche terrain would stay off of and out from under steep slopes.
If you want to travel through avalanche terrain, we encourage you to not only check the forecast but also to take a class to acquire basic avalanche knowledge and skills.
Finally, we encourage people to make sure they have the proper avalanche safety gear — a transceiver (aka beacon), shovel, and probe — and can use it effectively. Being able to use this life-saving equipment effectively generally requires practice.
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