We’d like to extend a Happy New Year greeting to all the Colorado backcountry enthusiasts. It’s been a great start to the snow year. The map below shows that a good portion of the state has near or well above average snow-water equivalent as we close out 2018. The Southern Mountains are still playing catch up, but a New Year’s storm is in the process of delivering some ample snowfall to the area. These are great conditions for winter recreation, but we are in the middle of the avalanche season and we want everyone to both have fun and stay safe.
Avalanche danger is ramping up with the New Year’s storm, and avalanche watches and warnings are in place for the San Juan Mountains. Although we likely won’t see enough snow for warnings in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains nor the Central Mountains, there will be enough of a new load to create dangerous avalanche conditions. Conditions are relatively safer in the Northern Mountains, but we still have stiff layers of snow resting on buried weak layers. You can still trigger a dangerous avalanche on steep wind-loaded slopes.
It’s not unusual for us to see avalanche accidents around the holidays and New Year. Over the last 10 seasons, we documented 11 incidents and accidents during the first week of the New Year. Three of these were fatal accidents. We don’t want 2019 to start out on a tragic note. Don’t let the excitement of new snow lead you into terrain not suitable for the changing conditions. Read the forecast, and pay attention to the travel advice. We want everyone to enjoy the great riding conditions and return home safely to friends and family.