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Man survived avalanche, works to make sure others do the same

By Emily Allen, Multimedia Journalist /Target 13 Investigator , emily.allen@krdo.com
Published On: Feb 09 2014 11:52:03 PM CST

A Colorado Springs man who survived an avalanche now works to make sure others do the same.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

A Colorado Springs man who survived an avalanche now works to make sure others do the same.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued avalanche warnings Sunday for most of the central and northern mountains. It said slides may be very large and destructive.

Avalanches have taken to lives in Colorado this season. Skee Hipszky is one of the first to respond if someone is caught in an avalanche in El Paso County.

"You need to get to an avalanche victim within 20 minutes of initial burial to have a 50 percent survivability rate. That goes down exponentially the longer you are buried," said Hipszky.

Hipszky has volunteered with El Paso County Search and Rescue for more than 40 years. He was one of the first to respond to a deadly avalanche on Pikes Peak in 1995.

"We had four extreme skiers in April come off the summit of the peak on the east side, create an avalanche. One of them was killed out right, the other three survived," said Hipszky.

He knows what it's like to be caught in mother nature's path.

"We had come over the top of a cornice and then the third or fourth person over the top triggered the avalanche," said Hipszky. "It was like sand running all over you and it just kind of flowed over you.  I was buried about halfway through."

Variations in temperature and snow consistency can lead to avalanches. As temperatures flucuate and wind picks up, powder snow can be caught between hard layers of snow. Hipszky described it as sand caught between two pieces of glass. 

"It creates depth hoar, which is very lose, it's snow without the flake-part so it's become very unstable, it's like sand," said Hipszky.

Stormtracker 13 meteorologist Jay Polk explained reasons behind this recent set of avalanche warnings across the state.

"Avalanche warnings will come in when you have a heavy snowpack and you have high winds and that's the case this time," said Polk.

Hipszky said back country bound snowmobilers, snowshoers, skiers and snowboarders need to check snow conditions before heading out the door.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center provides daily updates on snow conditions on its website.

Colorado Springs REI is offering a free avalanche awareness workshop on Feb. 20 from 6 pm to 8 pm.

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