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CAIC warns backcountry snow-sport enthusiasts of avalanche danger

(Photo: MGN Online)

(Photo: MGN Online)

The weekend weather forecast proved to be much more positive than the avalanche forecast.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an avalanche advisory on Friday in several Colorado counties, warning that fresh snowfall and warm temperatures will create a considerable threat.

The sunny and clear Saturday weather attracted many to the backcountry along Loveland Pass, but the risk of avalanches was on many people’s minds.

“It looks beautiful now, but I wouldn’t have gone out earlier,” said Kimberly Bakhtiari, a backcountry snowboarder from San Diego. “I would let it get a little settled a little bit, make sure people ride it, make sure people get it blasted and make sure it’s a little bit safer.”

Nick Yourd, of Golden, and his friends saw the risky conditions first-hand Saturday morning.

They watched from the top of Loveland Pass as another skier triggered a small slide and got caught in it’s wake for roughly 100 feet before recovering.

“He just made a cut and broke more of what’s called slough, not a full-on avalanche, but there could be an avalanche coming if you see that,” Yourd said.

John Snook with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said several similar slides on Loveland Pass demonstrate the risk this weekend.

“That’s one of the concerns we have right now,” Snook said. “Those slides often aren’t that dangerous but if they were to carry you over cliffs or into trees they certainly could be dangerous.”

Coloradans have seen plenty of that danger already this season.

Avalanches big and small have caught skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers and drivers.

In all, eight people in Colorado have died due to avalanches.

“The average in Colorado is six fatalities per season, so tragically we’re above average,” Snook said. “And the season’s not over yet.”

Snook said backcountry skiers must remember to take a probe, shovel and a beacon. He added that everyone in risky areas should travel in groups and be cautious.

Yourd said that’s exactly what he and his friends did.

“We picked our lines, spaced out one at a time, had safe zones, just communicated really well,” Yourd said.