CMC Leadville to tweet backcountry tips and avalanche facts Feb 25 – Mar 3, 2018
Expert avalanche forecasters are describing current avalanche conditions in Colorado as dangerous, rare and risky. Colorado Mountain College, home to the Avalanche Science program based in Leadville and developed through a partnership with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), sees these precarious conditions as an opportunity to spread awareness. From February 25 – March 3, CMC Leadville will be tweeting avalanche safety facts and figures to spread awareness for backcountry safety, under the hashtag #CMCAviAware posted to the @cmcleadville Twitter account.
CMC’s Avalanche Science program, launched in 2017, was created through a partnership between Colorado Mountain College and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. The program has expanded educational opportunities for avalanche professionals, like ski patrol, rescue groups and outdoor leaders. Students observe and analyze snow pack conditions throughout the curriculum, including the exceptionally dangerous snow pack year that Colorado has experienced in the 2017/2018 season.
“We have very tricky conditions right now,” says Ethan Greene, Director for the CAIC and faculty for CMC’s Avalanche Science program, “This thick, hard upper layer of snow makes it so we can ski, snowboard and snowmobile across it without much of an issue, but if you hit just the right spot, you will start an avalanche. And because there’s this thicker, harder layer on top, it ends up triggering much bigger and more destructive avalanches.”
The unique conditions in large portions of the Central and Southern Mountains should cause alarm for backcountry users. Recent storms and new snow have exacerbated the risk for deadly Persistent Slab avalanches. North and east-facing slopes at higher elevations are most dangerous.
“In the Sawatch Range,” says Brian Lazar, Deputy Director for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and an instructor for CMC’s Avalanche Science program, “Small incremental loading from continued storms is slowly building larger slabs on top of fragile weak layers near the ground. Triggering an avalanche large enough to bury a person is a distinct possibility, with east-facing slopes at higher elevations the most worrisome. The Monarch pass area is most dangerous, with around a foot of new snow Thursday night.”
Colorado Mountain College Leadville is a center for avalanche education in central Colorado. In addition to the professional based Avalanche Science program, CMC offers several courses that can teach backcountry recreationists how to recognize unstable snow conditions and avoid dangerous terrain. Due to the growing popularity of backcountry recreation, CMC’s avalanche safety classes fill quickly. Visit coloradomtn.edu/classes to search for CMC course availability or avalanche.state.co.us/education for CAIC avalanche education opportunities.