Avalanche deaths reached near-record levels in Colorado during the 2022/23 winter season. Friends of the San Juans is doing its part to reduce that number this season by leading education and outreach efforts throughout the Four Corners. Despite low early-season snowpack, experts warn there is still a risk for slides. By Connor Shreve This story is sponsored by Keesee Motors and Southwest Health System
As winter transforms the San Juans into a snowy playground, experts encourage caution for novice and expert explorers alike. You're watching "The Local News Network" brought to you by Keesee Motors and Southwest Health System. I'm Connor Shreve. Well, the shallow early season snowpack might motivate some skiers and riders to think they can beat Colorado's notoriously unstable snow pack. That's not the case according to friends of the San Juan's executive director, Evan Tyler. There is enough snow for avalanches. We've already had four people caught in a slide in Colorado by marble. So avalanches are happening. They're happening here in the San Juan. They've been reported. So just be cautious. There's enough snow out there to have a avalanches. Even though it's not much, a little bit of snow can still really cause some damage. It's enough to to sweep people off their feet, maybe carry them or even bury in certain situations. Following one of Colorado's deadliest avalanche seasons last year, Friends of the San Juans is on a mission to increase avalanche awareness. 122 people were caught in slides last season, resulting in 11 deaths. That's four more than the annual average over the past 10 years, reinforcing Colorado's reputation for having one of the most unstable snow packs in the world. It's just the nature of the beast. And so, we are trying to just early season let people know, hey, we're back in winter mode. Even though there might not be a lot of snow, avalanches are still a risk. And so, getting people prepped for the winter and making sure they are going out with the knowledge they need and making smart decisions in the back country. Tyler says there are many more opportunities throughout the season to expand your knowledge base. We push them to take a class with maybe one of the guiding services around town. You can take a Level 1 recreational class or a Level 2, or even up through professional level classes. So our big thing is, yeah, getting people aware and then keep funneling them up the system to take more courses. You can join Friends of the San Juans for Two-On-Snow Courses in January. The first is offered January 13th and 14th on Molas Pass, and the second is January 27th and 28th on Lizard Head Pass. It's a great way to just get introduced to the area, to the point of the four corners having a very sketchy snow pack. If you're not familiar with the Colorado persistent slabs scary issues, you definitely want to get somebody to show you around. Be really cautious in the back country. It's just very difficult to predict and avoid avalanches here To sign up for On Snow Sessions visit Friends of the San Juans at thesanjuans.org. You can also purchase a membership and find more back country resources. For more information on this and other stories, visit montezumalocal.news. Thanks for watching this edition of "The Local News Network." I'm Connor Shreve.