Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

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Avalanche deaths spike as storms bring snow, risks

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 | 10:11 p.m.

SEATTLE (AP) — Skiers and snowboarders rejoiced when a series of storms dumped several feet of snow in the mountains across the West.

But all the new snow and strong winds in the past month have fueled dangerous conditions from the Cascades to the Rockies, prompting forecasters to warn of avalanche dangers in many backcountry areas.

Seventeen people have died in an avalanche this winter, 11 of them since early February. Many skirted disaster or survived with broken bones or other injuries. Some were partially buried in snow, but managed to dig themselves out or were dug out by companions.

Avalanche experts are seeing a similar problem: too much new snow overloading weak layers of old snow. With too much stress, that weak layer eventually gives way.