CSU’s Campus Recreation brings avalanche awareness to rec center

Eleonora Yurkevich

The winter ski season is not over in Colorado, and neither is the avalanche season.

Since the beginning of this year, four people across the state have died in avalanches, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Two of the fatalities occurred this month.

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Colorado State University’s Campus Recreation held an avalanche awareness workshop on Jan. 26. Another training session is scheduled for Feb. 18 at 4 p.m. in the student recreation center, where students will get hands-on experience with avalanche beacons.

The most recent workshop, led by Outdoor Program Coordinator Andy Nelson, covered basics like identifying the types of avalanches, avalanche terrain, forecasting and equipment.

Most avalanches are triggered by people, Nelson said, and an avalanche can be set off in unexpected terrains.

“You don’t actually have to be on the slope to trigger an avalanche,” Nelson said. “You might be … snowshoeing on this totally flat area, and you’re still at risk of this steeper terrain above.”

Statistically, “the sweet spot” for avalanches is 38 degrees, Nelson said.

“Anywhere from 30 to 45 degrees is pretty much prime avalanche slope angle,” Nelson said.

Unfortunately, these angles tend to be some of the most sought-after by ski enthusiasts.

“These are your blue runs, your … easy black runs that most intermediate, advanced skiers want to hit,” Nelson said.

Having the right tools and equipment in an avalanche is not enough. Knowing how to use that equipment efficiently is important.

Canadian researchers recently suggested that, after being trapped in an avalanche for 10 minutes, the chance of survival is at 92 percent, Nelson said. In 35 minutes, that number drops to 37 percent.

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Nelson’s best advice to avoid getting caught in an avalanche is to “know before you go.”

Collegian Reporter Eleonora Yurkevich can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @EleonoraWriter.