DENVER - Recent heavy snowfall in the Colorado mountains have elevated the avalanche threat and already responsible for two deaths in February.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has been doing avalanche mitigation work along many roadways to prevent a slide that could put drivers at risk. CDOT says it has been doing more mitigation work this season than it has in decades.
Thanks to that effort, there have been no slides to date affecting a single driver. The state's problem areas have been in the backcountry.
Of the seven human-triggered slides, there have been four fatalities and all those victims were skiing, riding, or on snowmobiles in backcountry areas prone to avalanches.
"You gotta stick to lower level terrain when conditions are like this and maybe even stay out of the back country when avalanche warnings are there," said avalanche forecaster Lee Metzger.
Recent heavy snowfall has triggered the latest slides near Keystone and Crested Butte. Each snowstorm created different layers of snowfall. These layers are different thicknesses based on snowfall amount and type of snow. Some snows are light and powdery, while others are heavier and wetter.
That's the most recent scenario: the nearly 3 to 6 feet of snow during the second weekend of February was a heavier snowfall that laid upon a thinner layer of lighter snow. The weight of the recent snow layer will easily slide off the previous layers once triggered by a human, or an explosion by a mitigation crew.
Avalanche watches remain in effect for the central and northern mountains until further notice.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Colorado has had more avalanche deaths than any other state since 1950. Most fatalities are 21 to 25 year olds and the sport is typically snowmobiling.