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Avalanche and Backcountry Safety

Outpost - Blog - Avalanche Safety

One of the perks of living in Colorado, the beautiful snow covered mountains we get to experience during the winter months.  However, all that’s white and glistens is not safe for experiencing firsthand.

While many of us love taking in the fresh winter air and the untraced wilderness on a pair of skis or snowshoes, we need to remind ourselves to take precautions while trekking around to avoid getting caught in an avalanche.  According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) there have been 59 avalanche deaths in Colorado since 2003/2004, more than any other state in the U.S.  Statistics also show that out of all winter recreational activities, snowmobiling has the highest avalanche related deaths.  And between 1950 and 2006 there have been 235 recorded fatalities of those between the ages of 21 and 30 years old.

Since 2003/2004, January has seen the most avalanche related deaths and there has already been two unfortunate deaths caused by avalanches in 2014.  We hope that sharing a little information can help keep all of you safe while enjoying the beauty Colorado has to offer.

There are many types of avalanches but the most deadly of them all in North America is the Slab Avalanche.  Slabs of snow, typically about half the size of a football field and one to three feet thick, break away above you as you are heading up or down the mountainside.  As the slab breaks away it quickly accelerates to approximately 20 MPH in the first three seconds and as it continues down the mountain it can reach speeds upwards of 80 MPH in six seconds.  Often these slabs lay waiting for weeks or months, until an unsuspecting victim crosses its path, triggering it and sending the slab, and the victim, on a ride down the mountain.

When exploring the wilderness where there’s a chance of encountering an avalanche it is important that you are properly prepared.  Any time you are out and about you should have an avalanche rescue beacon securely attached to yourself.  Always evaluate the conditions you are heading in to and never risk your safety or the safety of others.  If there is potential avalanche conditions leave the area and come back another time.  You should travel with at least one other person and make sure that each person you are with has a small shovel and probe with them.

We highly recommend taking an avalanche safety course and continuously practicing the use of your safety equipment.  Doing so will help you be prepared should you have the unfortunate encounter with a slide while enjoying your time in the snow.

Stop in and ask our professional if you have any questions about avalanche safety and equipment, we’re here to help!

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