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Backcountry Skiers Warned of Avalanche Conditions on Mt. Washington

Avalanche danger was listed as “considerable” on Mount Washington Thursday.

With back country snow sports on the rise in the Whites, and a recent rash of avalanches in ski areas out West, the Mount Washington Avalanche Center is reminding people to be cautious. Center director Frank Carus says the White Mountains haven't seen as unusual an avalanche rate as places like Colorado have this season.

But the risk is still there, he says, especially for people who are under-prepared and venture out alone.

"You don't have a lot of opportunities for learning because you don't trigger an avalanche, even though that day you may have come within six inches of hitting the trigger point, right?” he says. “But you didn't know it because you didn't trigger anything."

Carus says excess precipitation and warm temperatures are creating slabs of unstable snow, which can lead to avalanches.

Two skiers and a snowboarder have reported triggering and being caught and carried in avalanches since late November, in areas of Mount Washington that are known to be high-risk, such as Tuckerman Ravine.

Carus says a record number of people are now pursuing guide-led avalanche trainings in the Whites. Carus will lead an informational session on avalanche preparedness in North Conway next Thursday.

He says the five key warning signs of avalanche danger include heavy precipitation, rapid warming, windblown snowdrifts and recent avalanches nearby. Visible or audible signs include warped, cracked or collapsing snow slabs, or a hollow sound underneath.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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