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Avalanche dangers persist, how to stay safe in Colorado’s high country


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- If you are ready to ski, snowboard, snowmobile, and snowshoe, knowing the weather and snow conditions is crucial, especially as the dangers of avalanches persist.

On January 8th, two Colorado Springs residents died in an avalanche in Summit County while out snowshoeing. Experts say it's a reminder to stay safe out in the backcountry and check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center before heading out.

Mountain Chalet, the oldest outdoor store in Colorado, which has been around since 1968 offers gear and apparel for rock-climbing, ice-climbing, and more.

Co-Owners of the outdoor store, Elaine and Jim Smith, encourage outdoor enthusiasts to bring a beacon, a probe, and a shovel before hitting the backcountry.

Elaine Smith says, "The beacon will send out a signal if someone is buried under the snow, and the group that is with that person, trying to find them, will switch their beacon to receiver mode so they can track where that signal is coming from." She continues, "Once you find that person, you’re using a probe to find out how deep that person is buried underneath, so you can pinpoint exactly where that person is."

Smith clarifies that shovels are also necessary. She says that on average, you only have about 15 minutes to save a person once the avalanche hits.

One helpful resource is Know Before You Go, which is a free avalanche awareness program. The website says, "Not much science, no warnings to stay out of the mountains, no formulas to memorize. In 1 hour, you will see the destructive power of avalanches, understand when and why they happen, and how you can have fun in the mountains and avoid avalanches."

Mountain Chalet offers Beacon Safety Classes and the Pikes Peak Alpine School also have several community resources for courses if you are heading out to the backcountry.

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Kerjan Donovan

Kerjan is the weekend morning anchor and reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Kerjan here

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