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Avalanches have killed more than 150 people in Mountain West states since 2013-14

A look at dangerous avalanche conditions in the Colorado mountains on Dec. 5, 2023.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center
A look at dangerous avalanche conditions in the Colorado mountains on Dec. 5, 2023.

Since the 2013-14 ski season, 244 people have died in avalanches across the United States, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. About two-thirds of those deaths happened in areas of the Mountain West, with the largest share taking place in Colorado (64). All told, the state accounts for about one-third of all avalanche deaths since 1950.

Four other states in the region have seen more than 20 avalanche deaths in the last 10 years, including Montana (28), Wyoming (25), Idaho (23), and Utah (21). In Nevada, three people died in avalanches during that span, and two people died in New Mexico.

A majority of the people caught and killed in avalanches were snowmobiling (80 deaths) or backcountry skiing (79 deaths), according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

At Palisades Tahoe, the victim, identified as Kenneth Kidd, 66, of California, was inbounds in steep terrain near the KT-22 chairlift, according to the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. It was the first inbounds avalanche death since 2020.

Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said forecasting avalanche conditions has become more challenging in recent years.

“Because of climate change,” he said, “and the increases in temperature are affecting precipitation, the timing, the frequency, the intensity, all these sorts of things, and all of those things definitely impact avalanches.”

He urged skiers and riders to always check daily avalanche forecasts, which can be found for all mountain ranges in the U.S. at avalanche.org.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2024 KUNR Public Radio. To see more, visit KUNR Public Radio.

Kaleb Roedel