The storm system that moved through Western Colorado on Christmas Eve was a gift to resorts looking for powder to get skiers and boarders excited for the season. But with the nearly 20 inches parts of the Grand Mesa received (and the chance for even more Wednesday night), the risk for avalanches is increasing. Know More about avalanche safety this winter.
It’s not that common for an avalanche to roll through a well groomed trail, but danger can increase as you head into the back country. That's why winter weather experts say it's important to prepare for any type of snowy condition.
For the Powderhorn ski patrol, gullies and lots of loose powder can snowball into smaller avalanches.
"What we have here would be considered terrain traps where you have a gully or something that might avalanche [and] bury you in the bottom," Powderhorn assistant ski patrol director Joshua Wilson said. "We send out teams of patrollers with shovels, probes and avalanche beacons."
Beacons are just one tool that can help rescue teams find skiers and boarders trapped beneath the snow.
"It's basically like a radar that we can look through the snow and find out where somebody is,” Wilson said.
Powderhorn director of finances Alex Gart uses his beacon as a safety measure, and says it provides flexibility for those heading off from the traditional trails.
"I have used it actually, while skiing outside of Crested Butte," Gart said of the emergency where he had to help locate another person. "[A beacon can help you] be found by your friends and or flight for life or emergency medical individuals."
Beacons are just one of Summit Canyon Mountaineering's popular avalanche tools, but besides the probes and shovels, a new backpack is drawing the attention of mountain daredevils.
"Once you activate [the backpack], it will inflate and it will keep you above the avalanche. You won't get as buried," Summit Canyon Mountaineering ski tech Chris Capp said.
Capp says avalanche gear sales for the local shop are growing each year, and that may have to do with more mountain enthusiasts heading to rugged terrain rather than trails.
"Resorts are becoming more lenient on being able to head out beyond their boundaries," Capp said.
Mountain experts say it's important to practice and test out the gear before you use it on the mountain. Powderhorn is actually toying with the idea of burying beacons on the mountain so people can practice finding them.
Two separate avalanches killed two people in California earlier this week. They were the first fatalities of the new ski season.