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CAIC Media Contact:
Kelsy Been
Public Information Officer
303.276.0510
Kelsy.Been@state.co.us

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Accident Data & Reports

Press Releases

50th Anniversary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2024
Kelsy Been | kelsy.been@state.co.us

CAIC issues special avalanche advisory as danger rises heading into MLK weekend
Virtual press conference scheduled for Jan 11 @ 12:30pm

BOULDER - The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) issued a special avalanche advisory for mountainous areas of Colorado alerting the public to dangerous avalanche conditions heading into Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. There have been fatal avalanche accidents around MLK weekend in four of the last 12 years. 

“The avalanche danger is going to be higher and avalanche conditions are going to be trickier this coming weekend than what we’ve seen in the last few weeks,” said CAIC Director Ethan Greene. “It’s been a dry winter in Colorado, and we’re all excited that we are finally getting some snow. This holiday weekend, a lot of people will be getting out and into the mountains, and there are lots of great, safe places to go. We want people to check the avalanche forecast and make a plan that keeps them off of the dangerous slopes.” 

Colorado has had an unusual period of low avalanche danger in December and early January. The advisory explains that new snow and winds through the holiday weekend will increase the avalanche danger statewide. Very dangerous avalanche conditions will develop in some regions, with the most dangerous conditions developing in the middle of the weekend. It will be easy to trigger large, widely-breaking avalanches capable of burying a person. Conditions will be more dangerous than they have been in weeks, so travel plans should be adjusted accordingly. 

CAIC Director Ethan Greene will host a virtual press conference on Thursday, January 11 at 12:30pm via Zoom at https://us04web.zoom.us/j/76419772617 or by phone at 17193594580 (76419772617#). Greene will open with a statement, and then media can ask questions by raising virtual hands. 

To see the avalanche forecast for your area or to learn more about avalanche safety, go to www.colorado.gov/avalanche. CAIC always urges backcountry travelers to educate themselves, travel with safety gear, and know the forecast. 

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Press Release Archive

Dec 20, 2023 - CAIC launches The Snow Pool and invites broad audience to participate

Dec 20, 2023 - The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) is teaming up with the Avalanche Research Program of Simon Fraser University in Canada (SFU) to launch The Snow Pool. The purpose of The Snow Pool is to have a broad group of people answer questions about how they understand and use avalanche safety information. Snow Pool participants will be invited to share feedback to help improve communication in Colorado, which could help save lives. 

“How we share avalanche safety information has evolved dramatically over the years, but that change has been based primarily on expert opinion,” said CAIC Director Ethan Greene. “Feedback from Snow Pool participants will allow us to understand how different kinds of people currently use our information so that we can improve our risk communication methods.”

CAIC is recruiting all types of users--hikers, snowmobilers, skiers, etc.--with all levels of experience. Those interested can learn more and sign up at https://caicsignup.avalancheresearch.ca/en/index.php. The initial sign-up takes about ten minutes and is best done from a computer. Individuals who sign up will receive emails from CAIC and SFU to participate in short online user surveys and provide feedback on CAIC forecasts and information. 

“We are especially interested in hearing from individuals who are just starting their backcountry adventures or only occasionally go into the backcountry,” said Greene. “This is an opportunity to be part of a community that contributes to the development of improved avalanche communications. Participants will be entered into prize drawings provided by the Friends of CAIC!”

This project is a collaboration between CAIC, Friends of CAIC, SFU, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

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Snow Pool

Oct 26, 2023 - Colorado Avalanche Information Center Celebrates 50 years of Avalanche Safety, Research, and Education

Picture of CAWP in 1975
Former CAIC Director Knox Williams started as the Lead Forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Warning Program in 1975.

BOULDER - This year marks 50 years of operations for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). CAIC is a program within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with a mission of providing avalanche information, education, and promoting research for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the state’s economy.

 

CAIC got its start as the Colorado Avalanche Warning Program (CAWP) in 1973 as part of the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station. CAWP was the first avalanche program in the U.S. that issued public avalanche forecasts. 

 

“Information and education about avalanche safety saves lives. I am thrilled to celebrate the 50 years of Colorado Avalanche Information Center operations and thank the center for keeping Coloradans, and recreational visitors, safe and informed while exploring and playing in Colorado’s iconic great outdoors,” said Governor Polis. 

 

Under Governor Polis the state has invested significant resources in the CAIC and Avalanche safety. Through SB 21-219 sponsored by Senator Bob Rankin and Rep. Julie McCliskie, signed by Governor Polis on April 30, 2021, the state invested $750,000 in the operations of CAIC ensuring these critical services are readily available to Colordans. On June 21, 2021 Governor Polis invested Keep Colorado Wild Pass revenue in search and rescue teams and Avalanche safety programs by signing SB21-249 sponsored by Senators Stephen Fenberg and Kerry Donovan and Representatives Perry Will and Kerry Tipper. 

 

“Much has changed over the last 50 years, including how we forecast conditions, our understanding of avalanches, and the technologies we use to share information,” CAIC Director Ethan Greene said. “But what hasn't changed is our commitment to sharing information and educating people about avalanches to help keep people safe.”

 

Greene has been the director since 2005 when he took over for the previous long-time director, Knox Williams. Knox has described CAIC’s evolution and growth with “a tiny upstart program in 1973 to the largest and perhaps most successful avalanche safety program in the United States today.”

 

“The work CAIC does is critical for the state of Colorado. As someone who recreates in the mountains, I have always relied on CAIC as a life-saving source of information,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “CAIC’s history shows the organization’s ability to adapt to meet changing needs, and I have no doubt that CAIC will continue to be a leader in avalanche safety, research, and education over the next five decades.“

 

CAIC has been housed within different agencies and programs since its inception, starting as part of the Forest Service and then moving to the DNR – living both under the Colorado Geological Survey under DNR and the  Executive Director's Office, where it has resided since 2013. CAIC is the only avalanche center in the country that resides within state government – instead of under the Forest Service in the federal government or as a non-profit. The CAIC does, however, rely on its public-private partnership with the Friends of CAIC, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that formed in 2007 to promote avalanche safety in Colorado and support the recreation program of the CAIC.

 

CAIC will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary throughout the upcoming season this winter, spotlighting its history and the progress that has been made in avalanche awareness and safety over the years. The celebration will begin at this year’s Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop on October 27 in Breckenridge. All former CAIC staff have been invited to attend the special event. Learn more about CAIC's history on its 50th Anniversary webpage

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Dec 14, 2023 - Colorado Avalanche Information Center and Colorado Mountain College Launch Accident Explorer 

Accident Explorer Screenshot

LEADVILLE - The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) and Colorado Mountain College (CMC) Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program partnered to develop the Avalanche Accident Explorer – an interactive map that displays information about Colorado’s fatal accidents since December 2009.

“Safely exploring Colorado’s iconic great outdoors is part of who we are. The new Avalanche Accident Explorer makes avalanche information more accessible to help Coloradans and visitors explore more safely,” said Governor Polis. “This collaboration between CAIC and CMC students is a great example of real-world learning opportunities for students that will protect Coloradans and our millions of visitors.”

Dara Seidl, CMC Leadville’s associate professor of geographic information systems, and CMC students Lucy Kepner and Joe Tayabji created the data visualization tool to help people more easily explore fatal involvements with avalanches.

“Partnering with CAIC on the Avalanche Accident Explorer has been a tremendous opportunity for CMC GIS students to engage in meaningful spatial visualization work for the benefit of our Colorado community,” said Seidl. “Our collaboration enabled our GIS students to further hone programming skills and build a custom web map application from the ground up.” 

Accidents are shown on a map with various layers and filters that can be selected. Users can filter accidents by travel mode, aspect, elevation, and avalanche type to explore where fatal accidents are taking place.

“We are so grateful for this partnership with Dara and her students,” said Ethan Greene, CAIC Director. “This interactive tool allows us to share important information about avalanche accidents in an intuitive, interactive platform. We know that people learn better when they can explore information. Together, we have created a public safety tool that allows people to see avalanche accident data on a map so that they can learn how to avoid this natural hazard.” 

The Avalanche Accident Explorer is accessible from the CAIC website at www.colorado.gov/avalanche under the Accidents menu. For more information about the data, go to CAIC Statistics & Reporting. To see the avalanche forecast for your area or to learn more about avalanche safety, go to www.colorado.gov/avalanche. CAIC always urges backcountry travelers to check the forecast, get some training, and be prepared with the proper knowledge and equipment. 

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