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Colorado avalanche deaths surpass seasonal average this year

Three more people died in avalanches this past weekend, bringing the total number of avalanche deaths in the 2022-2023 season to seven.

COLORADO, USA — Every year there is avalanche danger in Colorado, but the danger varies by day and location.

Over the weekend, three more people recreating in the backcountry were killed in avalanches, bringing the total of avalanche deaths in the 2022/2023 season to seven.

The 10-year average of avalanche deaths in Colorado is six.

Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, known as CAIC, said the two skiers killed in La Plata County near Vallecito Reservoir were experienced in how to handle the backcountry.

"In this particular case, these two skiers were well-equipped, but they were both caught in the same avalanche, so there was nobody around to perform a rescue," Greene said.

The two men, James Sutton, 67, and Jurgen Montgomery, 47, were identified by the La Plata County coroner on Monday. They were discovered under about 4 feet of snow.

Green said that in trainings, they teach people to travel through hazardous areas one at a time.

"If everybody's caught in the same avalanche, the chances of a bad outcome go up very quickly," he said.

But on La Manga Pass in the San Juan Mountains, a snowmobiler was with a group of four others when he was also caught in an avalanche on Saturday. They were unable to rescue him.

Greene said that in addition to knowing how to be prepared while in the backcountry, checking the avalanche forecast constantly is key.

The CAIC issues avalanche forecasts each day by 4:30 p.m.

"Most of the avalanche deaths in Colorado happen in January, February and March, and obviously we're just at the end of February, so we still have a lot of avalanche season left this winter," Greene said.

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