Winter Weather

Gunnison County’s winter-time temperatures are frequently some of the coldest in the nation. Sub-freezing, and even sub-zero temperatures are not uncommon, and can last for weeks at a time. Take important precautions when living in such a rural and harsh environment.

Ice Safety Tips:

Always assume that unsafe ice conditions may exist and remember ice thickness will vary from place to place and day to day. Four inches of ice is generally considered safe for ice fishing and ice skating. However, OHVs need at least five inches of ice thickness. Whenever there is any question about thickness or conditions the best advice is to stay off the ice.

Basic ice safety tips:

  
  • Never go onto the ice alone.
  • Remember Reach-Throw-Go.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • Always wear a life jacket.
  • Assemble a personal safety kit.
  • Always keep your pets on a leash.
  • Don’t panic.
  • Do not swim.
  • Act slowly and deliberately to conserve heat.
  • Keep your upper body above water.

Signs of unsafe conditions:

 
  • Ice of different colors.
  • Water on top of ice.
  • Cracks.
  • Pressure ridges.
  • Open water.
  • Bubbles in the ice.
  • Ice covered with snow

Extreme Cold Weather:

  Frostbite is the medical condition in which localized damage is caused to skin and other tissues due to freezing. Frostbite is most likely to happen in body parts farthest from the heart and those with large exposed areas.
Signs: Inadequate blood circulation to your skin/body parts while the temperature is below freezing can lead to frostbite. Signs of frostbite include lack of feeling in the affected area; skin that appears waxy, is cold to the touch, or is discolored (flushed, white or gray, yellow or blue).

Tips to avoid frostbite:

  • Dress appropriately for temperatures and wind chill
  • Avoid staying in the cold too long
  • Wear hats, gloves, and layered clothing. Make sure skin is not exposed to the cold.
  • Maintain body heat by staying active.

What to do for frostbite:

 

  •  Move the person to a warm place. 
  •  Handle the area gently; never rub the affected area. 
  •  Warm the victim by gently soaking the affected area in warm water (100–105 degrees F) until it appears red and feels warm. 
  •  Loosely bandage the area with dry, sterile dressings. If the person’s fingers or toes are frostbitten, place dry, sterile gauze between them to keep them separated. 
  • Avoid breaking any blisters. 
  • Do not allow the affected area to refreeze. 
  • Seek professional medical care as soon as possible.

Avalanche Tips:

Visit the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CIAC) website for more current avalanche conditions and information. You can also visit the Crested Butte Avalanche Center for tips on avalanche conditions and advisories.

If you are a skier or snowboarder at a commercial ski area the risk from avalanches is lower than in the backcountry. Ski patrols work to reduce the chance of an avalanche on open slopes. Respect the rules of the ski area, stay on open slopes, and do not stray out of bounds or into closed areas.  The avalanche risk is higher outside of the ski area boundaries.  

  • If you want to enjoy the great outdoors in areas prone to avalanches, you can reduce the danger by following a few simple suggestions:
    • Check the current avalanche forecast to get information on current and forecast avalanche conditions.  Also check the latest weather forecast to see if conditions are likely to change while you are in the backcountry. 
    • Never travel alone.  Always have one or more companions.  Even small avalanches can be fatal.  If you are alone and get trapped, you may not be found until spring. 
    • If crossing a slope that may be prone to avalanches, do it one person at a time.  You want to minimize the impact on your party if an avalanche is accidentally released.  
    • In avalanche country, all members of your party should carry avalanche rescue equipment, including an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe pole.  This increases your chances of affecting a successful rescue and finding your friends alive. 
Avalanche conditions in Colorado are monitored and forecast by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, CAIC. You can get more information on avalanches, avalanche forecasts, and avalanche safety from CAIC.