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State looks to curb Colorado backcountry emergencies this winter


Colo. (KRDO) -- Living in Colorado definitely has its benefits when it comes to winter outdoor recreation, and even with COVID-19 continuing to surge, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is expecting a large number of people out in the backcountry.

Jason Hagan, Senior Park Ranger with Cheyenne Mountain State Park said, “This year I think state parks, in general, have seen about a 30% increase in visitation. So we expect to see that carry over into the backcountry.”

If you're not prepared, the backcountry can be an extremely dangerous place. In fact, Colorado has the highest average number of deaths due to avalanches in the nation.

“Last year I believe we had close to 4,000 avalanches, about 600 of those were caused by human interaction. Six people died last year and that’s typically the average that we have,” said Hagan.

That's a big reason behind Gov. Jared Polis' official proclamation for Backcountry Winter Safety Awareness Week. A wave of backcountry winter emergencies could overwhelm the already limited resources of Colorado’s Search and Rescue; and with public health resources already strained by the pandemic, it just makes it that much more important to not overwhelm hospitals.

Hagan said, “Anything that we can all do to minimize the impact on the health system is going to be crucial with the environment that we are living in today.”

If you're exploring the backcountry, what are some key things that you might need?

Hagan explains, “Having an avalanche beacon, could save your life. Having avalanche probes, and a shovel, all that stuff is going to be crucial if you end up in a sticky situation.”

In short, it is crucial that you listen to the experts and make sure you are more than prepared if enjoying Colorado’s beautiful backcountry.

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Kolby Crossley


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