Most lovers of the outdoors in Colorado aren't thinking about avalanches yet, even though mountain snowfall has been substantial in recent days and several ski areas have opened earlier
than usual. But slides are already a danger, as one person recently discovered.
On October 15, according to an account shared by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center
(CAIC), a hiker climbed up Arapaho Pass and Arapaho Glacier Trails, north of Nederland, to an elevation of about 11,500 feet before the depth of the snow persuaded him to descend. Shortly thereafter, he ventured onto what he thought was hard-packed snow and wound up stepping right through it, or "post-holing," in winter-hiking parlance.
Suddenly, an avalanche fractured above him and to the east, sweeping him over cliffs ten to fifteen feet high. He estimates that he was carried about 150 vertical feet by the slide, suffering cuts, bruises and a fractured pelvis in the process.
In his words, "Avy season hit me by surprise."
Brian Lazar, the center's deputy director, was considerably less confounded by this event. "Any time you've got snow obscuring the ground cover on slopes steeper than 30 degrees, you need to start thinking about avalanches," he says. "It can happen as early as September, and by October, it's common for us to see the avalanche activity ramp up with early-season snowfall — and this year has been no exception."
True enough: On November 2, a skier was partially buried
by an avalanche on Hoosier pass, just above the Northstar neighborhood. Fortunately, he wasn't seriously injured.
Below, Lazar shares ten observations and tips about early-season avalanches, with the goal of preventing more folks enjoying the majesty of Colorado at this time of year from being caught off-guard.