Nearly 95 percent of avalanches that involve people are triggered either by the victims themselves or by a member of their party. If we know how to recognize avalanche danger, we can avoid it. Natural avalanches occur for two reasons: rapid warming or the additional weight of new or windblown snow that can overload weak-layers. There are almost always obvious signs of instability by the time avalanches come down on their own.
An average-sized dry avalanche travels at close to 80 mph and is nearly impossible for someone to outrun or even have time to get out of the way. Colorado leads the nation in deaths from avalanches with an average of six to eight people lost each season. Almost all avalanche fatalities occur in the backcountry areas outside ski area boundaries where no avalanche control is done.
The Colorado Department of Transportation, US Forest Service and the local ski areas all perform avalanche control within their respective boundaries. Since 1950, avalanches have killed more people in Colorado than any other natural hazard, and in the United States, Colorado accounts for one-third of all avalanche deaths. Avalanches involving people do not happen by accident. It is our goal to educate the public on the signs and dangers of avalanche in an effort to minimize the human and economic impact.