Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

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daway8
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Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by daway8 » Sun Dec 20, 2020 5:37 pm

With snowflake season starting in a matter of hours, if you haven’t already seen this message from Friends of CAIC here are some excerpts with emphasis added:

Since Friday three Coloradans lost their lives in avalanche accidents… this year conditions are especially dangerous… the weakest snowpack we’ve seen since 2012

The snowpack is below average across the state. Avalanches are mostly small, but very easy to trigger. This week, we have seen avalanches grow in size and they are going to continue to get bigger as the mountains get more snow.

We haven’t seen conditions this bad since 2012. Although the avalanche conditions are not unprecedented, they are worse than many people are used to. People are using avalanche-safety strategies that have worked in recent years, but current conditions require additional caution.

The most important thing you can do is check the avalanche forecast before you go into the backcountry. Go to www.colorado.gov/avalanche or get the Friends of CAIC’s mobile app. Look at the current avalanche conditions and plan accordingly.”
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by yaktoleft13 » Sun Dec 20, 2020 6:03 pm

Definitely some hyperbole in that release. I mean, were they in a coma foror March of 2019?

That being said, stay safe people
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by gb » Sun Dec 20, 2020 6:16 pm

yaktoleft13 wrote:
Sun Dec 20, 2020 6:03 pm
Definitely some hyperbole in that release. I mean, were they in a coma foror March of 2019?

That being said, stay safe people
Actually, they do mention it: "This is not the landscape-changing event we saw in March of 2019, but it is the weakest snowpack we’ve seen since 2012."

The 2019 snowpack was actually quite strong, which allowed it to build up for a long time during the March storm cycle before releasing catastrophically. From a recreation standpoint, things are worse now- there weren't exactly a lot of people trying to ski in March 2019 when highways were getting hit left and right. Right now, they are.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by daway8 » Sun Dec 20, 2020 6:24 pm

I grabbed out the portions I felt were most worth highlighting since I know a lot of folks don't like wading through long posts. But in case my highlighted excerpts give a skewed idea, here's the full unedited message for context (though gb already grabbed the most relevant line in regards to 2019 comparisons)

Special Announcement from the CAIC
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is urging people headed to the mountains to exercise extra care in the mountains and pay special attention to the avalanche forecast.

“Since Friday three Coloradans lost their lives in avalanche accidents, and 132 avalanches were reported. One hundred and eight avalanches were triggered by people in the last week” said Ethan Greene, Director, Colorado Avalanche Information Center. “More people die in avalanches in Colorado than any other state, and this year conditions are especially dangerous. This is not the landscape-changing event we saw in March of 2019, but it is the weakest snowpack we’ve seen since 2012. People need to recognize we have unusual conditions and their usual practices may not keep them out of harm’s way. As we gain more snow in the coming weeks, avalanches could become even more dangerous. We urge everyone to check the avalanche forecast before you plan your day in the mountains (www.colorado.gov/avalanche), particularly as we enter the holiday season.”

Here are the numbers
In the last week:
380 avalanches reported
108 triggered by people
Since Friday
132 avalanches
49 triggered by people
9 people have been caught in avalanches
3 people were killed in avalanches

Why is this important?
There have been a lot of avalanches and a lot of people are getting caught in them. The snowpack is below average across the state. Avalanches are mostly small, but very easy to trigger. This week, we have seen avalanches grow in size and they are going to continue to get bigger as the mountains get more snow.

We have avalanches every year, why is this different?
Colorado is the home of weak snow and avalanches are not uncommon. This year is worse. We haven’t seen conditions this bad since 2012. Although the avalanche conditions are not unprecedented, they are worse than many people are used to. People are using avalanche-safety strategies that have worked in recent years, but current conditions require additional caution.

What can you do?
The most important thing you can do is check the avalanche forecast before you go into the backcountry. Go to www.colorado.gov/avalanche or get the Friends of CAIC’s mobile app. Look at the current avalanche conditions and plan accordingly. Steep slopes where the snow supports your weight are dangerous. Avalanches are easy to trigger. They can break wider than you expect. You can trigger avalanches from low-angle terrain, below or to the side of a steep slope. If you’re unsure about the conditions, stay on slopes less than 30 degrees steep that are not connected to steeper terrain.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by CaptCO » Sun Dec 20, 2020 6:32 pm

I appreciate the reminder, as I’m sure most newcomers do. My snowflake goal has gone from a dozen to a few, be safe everyone!
"It's a thing if you want it to be a thing. What others think of something is irrelevant." -OldSchool
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by daway8 » Sun Dec 20, 2020 7:00 pm

CaptCO wrote:
Sun Dec 20, 2020 6:32 pm
I appreciate the reminder, as I’m sure most newcomers do. My snowflake goal has gone from a dozen to a few, be safe everyone!
It's the intermediate folks with a few winters under their belts (like me) who are perhaps most at risk.

Newbie's often have an aversion to avy terrain if they've watched even a video or two. Old timers are more likely to already spot the trends mentioned here.

But folks in my shoes, with just enough experience to think we know what we're doing can easily get burned when conditions don't "look" as bad as last year but you miss the key detail of the weaker than normal snow. So I was glad to see this warning.

I'm still hoping to get a lot of peaks this winter, but I'll be starting with very conservative choices and watching conditions very very closely.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by gb » Sun Dec 20, 2020 7:37 pm

daway8 wrote:
Sun Dec 20, 2020 7:00 pm


It's the intermediate folks with a few winters under their belts (like me) who are perhaps most at risk.

Newbie's often have an aversion to avy terrain if they've watched even a video or two. Old timers are more likely to already spot the trends mentioned here.
Maybe. The 3 killed so far this winter were all at least 50 years old. My friend Schnoid here in Crested Butte was 69, with hundreds if not thousands of days under his belt.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by daway8 » Sun Dec 20, 2020 7:45 pm

gb wrote:
Sun Dec 20, 2020 7:37 pm
daway8 wrote:
Sun Dec 20, 2020 7:00 pm


It's the intermediate folks with a few winters under their belts (like me) who are perhaps most at risk.

Newbie's often have an aversion to avy terrain if they've watched even a video or two. Old timers are more likely to already spot the trends mentioned here.
Maybe. The 3 killed so far this winter were all at least 50 years old. My friend Schnoid here in Crested Butte was 69, with hundreds if not thousands of days under his belt.
Sorry to hear that. Yes, no one is immune.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by nyker » Sun Dec 20, 2020 8:13 pm

Probably doesn't help that more people are probably out as well, given the shutdowns, folks out of work, etc. making the numbers worse.
Not sure how it is out there now, but the 3-4 local outdoor/ski shops near me are cleaned out of skis, ski gear and snowshoes as well.
There is a cross country ski place nearby that said everyone came in and cleaned them out of most models/sizes for fear that local ski resorts areas would be closed so they are taking up XC skiing instead of alpine.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by Eli Watson » Sun Dec 20, 2020 8:16 pm

Time in the field increases risk of accidents.

A relatively dry and warm introduction to the snow year made for buried weak layers in the early season snowpack that could spell disaster for folks venturing into more consequential terrain both now and later into the season.

Be safe, have fun.
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by Squirrellysquirrel » Sun Dec 20, 2020 9:03 pm

Kinda interesting to be reading this thread right now as I attempt to cement my plans for tomorrow morning for an early morning hike... in the N San Juan nonetheless. I’m having that internal conflict of: to go or not due to the conditions. Whenever CAIC issues a special warning, I tend couch my ego and wait out for better conditions... doesn’t make it any easier to relinquish wellmade plans for a low-volume hike, tho. ](*,)
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Re: Avy concerns: Unusually dangerous conditions

Post by JtheChemE » Mon Dec 21, 2020 5:31 pm

Another big warning sign for people excited to get after winter peaks:

Quite a large slide triggered remotely by what appear to be snowshoers en route to Sneffels' SW ridge route, but the report is vague and submitted anonymously. Thankfully the report doesn't mention injuries or a fatality.

Glad nobody was hurt, but its hard to think of decision making process that makes attempting this route reasonable today. This isn't even a heuristic trap type situation, as there is no route up sneffels without avalanche hazard. The aspect of the approach to SW route is exactly one of the ones that are in question right now. CAIC even put out a special bulletin yesterday about the high danger of the current snowpack. Especially worrisome is that it was triggered remotely from below. We can expect this danger to persist, and even get touchier with upcoming small storm loads in the forecast.

Hopefully pointing these things out (as appropriate) can be beneficial for this group, especially if it can bring awareness or start a discussion. In the off chance that the party involved reads this forum, it would be helpful to share more details with CAIC as to what led to this "near miss". There are quite a few new folks out there this season, I sure do hope people err more towards caution right now. Link to CAIC field report below.


https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/caic/ ... s_id=62936

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