If you go
What: Avalanche awareness seminar hosted by Northwest Colorado Snowmobile Club
When: 9:30 a.m. Jan. 12
Where: Freeman trailhead, about 11 miles north on Highway 13
• For more information, call 824-5353 or 824-4198
Craig One moment of inattention or carelessness in the Colorado backcountry could cost a life, local officials say.
Especially during the winter, when a combination of wind, weather and terrain can create the makings of an avalanche.
Ralph Stewart, Northwest Colorado Snowmobile Club vice president, has attended avalanche awareness seminars offered by the Colorado Snowmobile Association for six years. This year, the snowmobile club is sponsoring a similar training in Moffat County.
The seminar, which is funded by snowmobile registration fees, will teach outdoor winter enthusiasts of all persuasions - including snowshoers, skiers, snowboarders and snowmobile riders - survival tips and how to spot avalanche-prone areas.
Coloradans have added cause to be cautious. With more than 200 avalanches on record since 1950, Colorado sustains the most avalanche fatalities in the nation, said Ron Dellacroce, Yampa River State Park manager.
Snowmobiling has the most avalanche fatalities, he said. Cross-country skiing follows as a close second.
Avalanche risk, which peaks in January and February, depends on several factors including weather, terrain and snow pack, Dellacroce said.
Some avalanche signs are obvious.
Wind loading - snow that drifts and collects at a slope's peak - is one sign of an avalanche-prone area, Stewart said.
Other indicators are less visible, such as lightweight snow under a blanket of heavier snowfall.
When an avalanche occurs, the chance of outrunning it are slim, the vice president said. "There (are) some people who outrun it, but if you're not expecting it, you're not going to."
A person's survival chances in an avalanche decrease with time. Statistically, half of all avalanche victims die after being buried for 15 minutes.
"After 30 minutes, we're pretty sure we're looking for a victim," Stewart said.
For Dellacroce, prevention is the best cure for an avalanche.
"People : need to go into the back country prepared," he said. "We highly recommend people carrying beacons, shovels and probes - and know how to use them."