The surge of inexperienced tourists into unregulated, backcountry areas has contributed to a spike of avalanche-related deaths, but even the pros can be caught off-guard by conditions.
Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post/AP
The death toll from avalanches for the current US snow season mounted to 24 over the weekend after Colorado experienced its worst single accident since 1962. On Saturday, five snowboarders were buried under a slab of snow some 600 feet wide by 900 feet long near the Loveland Pass ski area.
While all five men who perished were considered skilled – indeed, they were participating in an avalanche-awareness fundraiser for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) – the incident spotlights what many see as a dangerous trend: a precipitous rise in less and less experienced snowboard and ski tourists in high-risk back-country areas.
“You can buy a lot of new cool gear these days,” says Andy Wenberg, the sales and marketing director at Back Country Access, a snow equipment store in Boulder, “but if you don’t know what you are doing, that is not going to help you very much.”