GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - This weekend Colorado witnessed its most deadly avalanche in 50 years. The five men that died were all seasoned veterans of backcountry riding and had state-of-the-art gear at their disposal. Despite all that, the avalanche claimed their lives.
Spring weather can often lead to avalanches due to the rapid cooling and heating of the snow.
“Overnight the snowpack freezes and becomes very strong, and in the daytime it heats up and becomes very weak,” says director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center Ethan Greene.
The rapid cooling we've seen can be detrimental, but it is also beneficial. It cools off the mountain snowpack and allows them to fill our reservoirs further into the summer months.
"The snowpack is like a free reservoir for us during the summertime," says Aldis Strautins, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service. "So it’s keeping the moisture in the snowpack a little bit longer in the spring, and then it’ll start to come off in late spring and early summer and then the reservoirs can fill up. If we keep more moisture up there, it prolongs how long the runoff season will be."
It's important to always bring the necessary gear when exploring the backcountry, and that means a beacon, probe and shovel. Also always remember that avalanches release in patterns, so if you see an avalanche you're likely to see another one on similar terrain (including the direction the slope faces and the elevation).
For more information on avalanches and to view the CAIC's avalanche forecast, visit the link below.