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Mid Avalanche Risk Levels Most Deadly

Avalanche Center

Current avalanche conditions in the area are such that too often, those recreating in the back country underestimate the risk leading to an elevation in incidents like those seen in the region Thursday.  Bridger Teton National Forest Avalanche Forecast Director Bob Comey says of the five danger levels more incidents take place in the middle levels than even at the higher levels. He says looking at the statistics for avalanche fatalities, most people die during moderate hazards.  Says Comey:  “It’s a five-level scale with “One” being low hazard (the lowest) and “Five” being extreme hazard (the highest), and we see most people die during the second and third level and that’s where we’re at right now.”  He says it actually comes down to terrain choices.  He says if you make the wrong choice, it can have severe consequences. Comey says obviously, those heading out should check the avalanche forecast before setting out, but their responsibility to be safe doesn’t stop there.  He says in addition to that, you need to have your own knowledge in order to be your own avalanche forecaster out in the back country.  Comey explains, “Our avalanche forecast at jhavalanche.org is a general avalanche forecast for a wide variety of terrain; and I think what people want to know is, ‘can I ski this particular slope or ride it?’”  He says those recreating in the back country during the winter need to take an avalanche course, gain some experience and make their own decisions.  Currently, Comey says there are weak layers in the snowpack due to the dry and cold periods seen here recently.  During that time, he says surface hoarfrost formed on top of the snowpack and is the culprit for the current instability which he says will remain for the weeks to come.

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