Avalanche Watch in effect for Vail area, Summit County and Aspen area
Avalanche conditions are expected to develop in Eagle County, Summit County and Pitkin County from Monday night into Tuesday, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
The CAIC issued the avalanche watch notification Monday morning, as fresh snow started to accumulate in Eagle County. According to the National Weather Service, the area could see up to a foot of accumulation by Tuesday morning. Periods of heavy snowfall will increase the likelihood that avalanches may release naturally.
The avalanche danger will vary on Monday, with areas below treeline to be in level 2 (moderate) and areas near or above treeline at level 3 (considerable). Conditions will worsen on Tuesday, with areas near or above treeline expected to reach level 4 (High) avalanche danger, as those below treeline move to level 3.
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The watch is in effect until 8:00 a.m. Tuesday.
Avalanche season in Colorado off to a deadly start
Colorado’s avalanche conditions worsened in late December, and slides have already killed four people.
The first avalanche death of the season was a solo skier who was buried in a slide near Crested Butte in an area called Friendly Finish. A few days later, two backcountry skiers were killed in an avalanche northwest of Silverton. And just this past Saturday, a slide occurred on Berthoud Pass that claimed the fourth victim of what is quickly becoming a historically deadly avalanche season for the state. There were six avalanche deaths across the state in the whole 2019/20s20 snow season.
Coronavirus restrictions drawing more to the backcountry
CAIC reported an increase in backcountry incidents following the statewide shutdown of ski resorts in mid-March last year, and officials worry that trend could worsen as more skiers and snowboarders take to the backcountry.
Retailers have also seen their uphill ski/snowboard gear sales exploding, but, according to some local vendors, it’s not all for backcountry use. Joe Tilton, assistant manager at Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards, told the Vail Daily back in November that every splitboard the shop had in stock sold out “in like a month” this year. Tilton added that many people who purchase the gear won’t end up using it all that much, especially if the resorts stay open.
“A lot of people are hedging their bets,” he said.
Erring on the side of caution, Graham Kane of Eagle County Paramedic Services penned a Vail Daily column on Dec. 19, asking those going into the backcountry to consider the difficulty of a rescue mission during the pandemic.
“Our search and rescue paramedics respond as another tier of service. But it’s the first thing that goes away when the medical system is stressed,” Kane wrote.
“So before you head into the backcountry this winter, consider your own risk tolerance. Responses are always delayed and may be impacted by the larger health care system picture this winter.”
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