Friends of CAIC to expand avalanche poster program to 20 Summit County trailheads
DILLON — With an expected increase in backcountry skiing and snowboarding this winter, the nonprofit Friends of CAIC is working with Summit County Open Space & Trails and the U.S. Forest Service to install 20 “Recognizing Avalanche Hazard” posters at popular Summit County trailheads.
Friends of CAIC Executive Director Aaron Carlson said the nonprofit is working with 10 groups statewide to provide signage at 70 trailheads across Colorado.
Carlson said the organization’s new membership program added to the general funds from which the signage program could draw. He said Friends of CAIC is in talks with a potential partner on funding the program in its entirety for this winter and beyond.
Carlson said the Summit signs are an extension of work Friends of CAIC started with the 10th Mountain Hut Association and Alfred A. Braun Hut System in January 2019 that aimed to display avalanche safety signage within the huts for the benefit of their users. That program grew to include many different hut systems and also expanded to a partnership with the Forest Service to get avalanche safety trailhead signs on Vail Pass.
“This year, our goal was to expand the signage program even further and to work with the United States Forest Service and local municipalities to get signage up at as many different trailheads as possible throughout the state,” Carlson said.
Carlson said the signs were especially important in Summit County because Friends of CAIC was interested in “evolving” its messaging ahead of an expected large increase in backcountry use this winter with access to resort skiing limited due to the pandemic.
Carlson added that the signage is designed for all users — not just those who are new to the backcountry.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center Deputy Director Brian Lazar said the signs were designed to provide people with important information right at the trailhead.
“If there is cell coverage, they can immediately access the current forecast,” Lazar said. “They can read the travel advice for the current danger rating, what to look for when in the backcountry and ways to reduce your risk.”
Lazar added that the forecasting center hasn’t seen big surges of people in the backcountry yet with very thin snow coverage limiting backcountry options. Despite limited backcountry use early this season, Lazar said the state organization already has seen several human-triggered slides, and some people have gotten caught in small avalanches.
“It’s too early to tell how our snowpack will develop, but we do have weak layers near the ground on high-elevation shady slopes,” Lazar said. “These slopes will be the first to produce avalanches when more snow arrives.”
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