Sobering footage posted by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) of springtime avalanche dangers in the Rockies. This snowboarder was caught and carried by an avalanche on Quandary Peak this weekend. Thankfully they were not buried and no injuries were reported.
Tragically a solo skier was caught, buried and killed in an avalanche east of Breckenridge on Saturday. Really want to emphasize that avalanche risks persist into spring and skiers and snowboarders need to take all necessary precautions when traveling in the backcountry.
With a poor overnight freeze and dust beginning to resurface, we raised the avalanche danger to Moderate (Level 2 of 5) for two different wet snow concerns that will arise on Sunday.
1) You can push small wet avalanches in previously dry, recently wind-drifted snow. While most of these avalanches will be small in size and only several inches deep, in continuously steep terrain, a ride in one could produce a very bad outcome. Sadly, a solo skier was caught, buried and killed on Bald Mountain, east of Breckenridge on Saturday. We will post a preliminary report on our website this morning. In a different incident, on Mt. Quandry, a snowboarder filmed themselves taking a ride in a similar avalanche, but with a much better outcome where they came to rest on the snow surface, uninjured. This is the video in this post.
2) At low elevations, the frozen crusts in the upper snowpack that will initially provide supportive travel conditions will begin to wet and lose strength. This is most concerning on the Western Slope, where overnight lows stayed above freezing in many locations. In the afternoon, the “trap doors” will begin to open, making over-snow travel punchy and difficult, raising the concern for wet avalanches that gouge deeper into the snowpack.
Start and end your day early, and expect these wet snow concerns to escalate over the next few days.