Colorado Avalanche Experts Issue Warning Following Deadly Weekend on the Slopes

Snowy Landscape in Colorado's San Juan Mountains

Ski season is fully underway in Colorado, but following the deaths of three people in two avalanches over the weekend, experts are warning those exploring the state’s mountainous backcountry to exercise extra caution and pay attention to forecasts.

On Sunday, a rescue team uncovered the bodies of two skiers who were caught in an avalanche in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains a day earlier, the Associated Press reported.

Durango residents Albert Perry and Dr. Jeff Paffendorf were reported missing shortly after leaving on a ski trip north of Silverton, a town tucked away in the mountains, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

But they weren't the first to disappear this season — another skier was buried in an avalanche on Friday in the Anthracite Range west of the ski resort town of Crested Butte, per the center.

According to the AP, center director Ethan Greene said that 132 avalanches have been reported since Friday, and that Colorado’s snowpack is the weakest it has been since 2012.

“People need to recognize we have unusual conditions and their usual practices may not keep them out of harm’s way. As we gain more snow in the coming weeks, avalanches could become even more dangerous,” he said.

The center has a tiered system to rate the danger of an avalanche in any given area. This Monday, the center rated all of Colorado’s mountainous regions as a considerable risk for avalanches — a mid-level ranking, just below extreme and high.

Snowfall in the region has been below average for this time of year, making most of the recent avalanches small, but easy to trigger, the AP reported. The center is warning, however, that the avalanches will grow in size and danger as more snowfall comes in later in the season.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but always on the lookout for the next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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