Colorado’s avalanche safety experts say the state’s first snow slide death of the season was a prime example of how often backcountry users are killed when danger levels are forecast to be at their lowest levels.
Nearly 40% of fatal avalanches in Colorado occur during moderately dangerous conditions, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
There are five levels of danger that CAIC uses to forecast avalanche danger: low, moderate, considerable, high and extreme.
“When (danger is) low there may be places out there where you can trigger an avalanche that kills you, but they are relatively hard to find,” said Ethan Greene, director of the CAIC.
High-danger days typically are easier to identify, he said, and people are “very clued into the danger.
“In those middle categories, that’s when you can have the potential to trigger a deadly avalanche and have blue skies or not see much activity,” Greene said.
Michelle Lindsay, a 29-year-old from Fort Collins, was killed while she was backcountry skiing on Cameron Pass west of Fort Collins on Dec. 8. Both she and her partner that day had researched the conditions and danger on the CAIC website before heading out.