Avalanche information center closes for the 2002-03 season | SummitDaily.com

Avalanche information center closes for the 2002-03 season

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Colorado Avalanche Information Center closed April 22, reporting an above-average number of people caught, buried and injured in snow slides.

Backcountry enthusiasts should continue to monitor snow and weather conditions, even though the center is closed.

According to Dale Atkins, weather and avalanche forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), six people died in avalanches in the state this season, 13 were injured and 84 were caught. A total of 2,372 avalanches was reported.

“And for each avalanche reported, we feel another 10 go unobserved,” Atkins said of the season-end statistics. “The other numbers reflect that there are more people out there, and our reporting network has improved over the years.”

Atkins said the season was representative of a typical year.

“Though the number of people killed was average, there were very many more lucky people,” he said. “They had a hand sticking out, or their friends had beacons and they survived.”

Opening a branch office in Breckenridge helped CAIC officials make better forecasts, too, he said.

“It was a big help to us forecasters in Boulder to have another set of eyes, ears and hands in the backcountry making observations and helping with forecasts,” he said. “It helped us put better information out to the public in Summit County.”

The CAIC delivered its last avalanche forecast Tuesday because most of its forecasters have left for the season, and the major ski resorts are closed. Those who have remained will continue to monitor slide conditions into May.

Avalanche danger still will lurk throughout the summer, Atkins said.

“We still have another serious month of avalanche danger to go,” he said. “If people are planning late-spring adventures into the backcountry, we hope they continue to think “avalanche,'” he said. “At this time, there is still plenty of snow for skiing, snowboarding, climbing and snowmobiling that will last into June at some of the high- elevation sites. People going into the backcountry shouldn’t let their guard down.”

Backcountry recreationists can avoid avalanche terrain by staying on slopes of less than 30 degrees. Regardless, people should be cautious, said forecaster Nick Logan.

They should carry and know how to use avalanche rescue gear, including beacons, shovels and probes; only one person in a group should be exposed to potential avalanche danger at a time; and those who ride, climb and ski down the edge of slopes will be safer than going down the center.

Also, Logan reminds people that snow stability can change from hour to hour.

“A large spring storm or a sustained period of hot weather can increase the avalanche danger,” he said. “During a storm, or immediately after, new snow may not bond well to the icy old snow surface. Also, soon after a storm, several hours of bright sun can warm the surface snow enough to become unstable. After a couple of days, the new snow will strengthen and ease the danger.”

Backcountry users should watch temperatures and monitor the snowpack for water.

“When you can wring water out of a fistful of snow, it’s time to move to more gentle terrain,” Logan said. “Usually you have little risk when you ski early in the morning when the snow surface is crusty or just beginning to soften. The danger begins to rise with thaw conditions late in the morning through the afternoon.”

He also recommends people avoid traveling under cornices, particularly when the snow is wet or when water begins dripping from the tops.

CAIC officials will post updated information throughout May and early June on their Web site at


Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

2003-03 Colorado Avalanche Statistics

– Number of avalanches reported: 2,372 (annual average: 2,150)

– People caught: 84 (average: 67)

– People partly buried: 29 (average: 15)

– People buried: 11 (average: 12)

– People injured: 13 (average: 6)

– People killed: 6 (average: 6)

What: Second annual Corn Harvest, a benefit for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

When: Saturday, April 26, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Loveland Ski Area

Cost: $20 (plus your lift ticket)

What it gets you: Admission to the party at Ptarmigan Roost cabin atop Chair #2, one raffle ticket and four beers. The raffle will be at 3:30 p.m. at the base area.

Info: http://www.cornharvest@earthlink.net

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