Last night we joined fellow backcountry travelers at our local backcountry ski shop here in Carbondale, Cripple Creek Backcountry, for a discussion about snow stability. Brian McCall of Colorado Avalanche Information Center analyzed our area and reviewed slope evaluation techniques.
Historically, Colorado has the highest avalanche fatality rates in the nation so we are mindful each year about snow pack development. Weak layers that earlier in our season frequently persist for months, and can be the cause of avalanches throughout the year. Brian pointed out that a few of these weak layers from January will likely persist until they melt out in the summer. Terrifying.
Lou has dealt with this for years, been a victim of it, and says “If I can offer one thought, it’s the backcountry skiers in Colorado need to be more risk adverse than many of them are. You simply can’t be as cavalier and aggressive as with other snowpacks.”
So at least for now, our Rocky Mountain excursions will be very conservative. We’ll still get out but will by hyper vigilant about route finding and group dynamics. Thankfully we’ve been able to ski safer snow in Canada and Europe. Those guys get weak layers as well but especially at lower elevations in Europe they don’t seem to persist like ours do here in Colorado. Check out our photos from a recent tour in Tirol.