The avalanche that occurred late Saturday afternoon in Colorado has proven fatal. The two bodies of the missing skiers reported yesterday after the avalanche were found early this morning, thanks to the locators the skiers wore. However, the steep and treacherous terrain made it impossible for rescue teams to reach the trapped skiers before it was too late. This recent avalanche in Colorado has added to the high death count attributed this winter to these horrific events.
Recent snowfall in the Colorado Rockies has brought backcountry skiers and snowboarders out in droves. They have flocked to the newly fallen powder, despite the many warnings issued concerning public safety in the mountainous regions of the western United States. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has come out with several warnings to would be fun seekers. There has been an extraordinarily high amount of snowfall during this avalanche season. Combined with severely strong winds that have swept the area in recent months, it has created a volatile situation. Most fail to listen to these warnings, and have attempted to brave the unstable conditions. As a result, the number of deaths from an avalanche has been high this year. 14 fatalities total, as well as several other injuries have occurred as a result of this unpredictable situation.
Six fatalities from avalanches have occurred this month alone. On Monday, an avalanche near Keystone Ski Resort in Colorado added to the death count when it killed one man and almost claimed another. The same day near Kebler pass a snowmobile rider was trapped in a separate event and killed as well. A third avalanche that day failed to claim any lives, but put three skiers in grave danger. One managed to ski away while the other two were airlifted out.
Other nearby states have also recently experienced a rising number of avalanche related fatalities. Utah had two avalanches of its own, resulting in two deaths. Two more people were killed while cross country skiing when an avalanche swallowed them up in Oregon.
At this time, Colorado state officials are doing all they can to ensure the safety of those who wish to battle the elements. They have been keeping roads clear of debris and posting signs warning travelers of the dangers. However, this has not stopped the flow of riders into the mountains. Locals who know the area have been lulled in to a false sense of security. Some have begun to pay the price for their rash decisions.
The state of Colorado offers classes designed to help someone who is trapped by an avalanche. These courses are also designed to give participants preventative measures to ensure that they do not cause an avalanche, nor enter in to an area where one is likely. Unfortunately, due to the strange weather the Rockies have been facing, the area exposed to high avalanche dangers has steadily increased. Even those who have taken the precautionary measures are getting caught up in the problem.
Yesterday’s avalanche in Colorado has added to the death count, but is far from being the last to do so. Skiers and snowboarders need to take serious precautions if they are going to risk visiting these highly volatile areas. The state can only post warnings for people to read. They cannot force everyone to listen to them.
By Chris Chisam