March, 2019 could go down as the most intense avalanche cycle Colorado has seen in recorded history. So far this month, there have been over 600 recorded slides. Many of these avalanches are bigger and more intense than they’ve been in hundreds of years.
All of this avalanche activity is due to a “perfect storm” of unstable snowpack across the state. At the crux of the matter is a very deep snowpack with a very weak layer down at the bottom of it. This weak layer was formed way back in October when early season snowfall was followed by a lengthy dry spell which lasted well into November. This long dry spell created a layer on the surface of the snow that was very weak and would not support the weight of additional snow on top of it.
The snow then turned back on, burying this weak layer under many feet of snow. This meant that mountainsides across the state had millions of tons of snow sitting precariously on a surface that could not support it.
This deadly combination was compounded by wind throughout Colorado’s high country which loaded even more snow on slopes that were already weak and vulnerable.
Bottomline: If you plan on going backcountry skiing in Colorado this weekend you need to be super vigilant. And if your skiing at a resort you might want to wear a avalanche transceiver.