Winter Weather & Preparedness Information

Gunnison County's winter temperatures are frequently some of the coldest in the nation. Sub-zero & sub-freezing temperatures are not uncommon and can last for weeks at a time. It is important to take precautions when living in such a rural and harsh environment.

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Ice Safety

Always assume that unsafe ice conditions may exist and remember ice thickness will vary from place to place and day to day. Four (4) inches of ice is generally considered safe for ice fishing and skating. OHV's however need at least five (5) inches of ice for safe operation. Whenever there is any question about thickness or conditions the best advice is to stay off the ice.

Basic Safety Tips

  • Never venture onto the ice alone
  • Remember "Reach, Throw, Row, Don't Go"
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages
  • Always wear an appropriate life jacket
  • Assemble (PDF) or Purchase a personal safety kit
  • Always keep 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 in ice
  • 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 furthest from the heart and those with large exposed areas. Inadequate blood circulation to your skin/body parts while the temperature is below freezing can lead to frostbite.

Signs of Frostbite

  • Lack of feeling in affected area
  • Skin with a waxy appearance and cold to the touch
  • Discolored skin (flushed, white/gray, yellow, blue)
  • More information

Avoiding Frostbite

  • Dress appropriately for the temperature and wind chill
  • Avoid staying in the cold for long periods of time
  • Wear hats, gloves, and layered clothing
  • Make sure skin and other body parts are not exposed to the cold
  • Maintain body heat by staying active
  • More information

Treating Frostbite

  • Cover with clean (sterile if possible) non-abrasive cloth or gauze
  • Place gauze/cloth between frostbitten fingers or toes to keep them separated
  • Move yourself or the person to a warm/protected location
  • Handle the affected area gently; do not rub affected locations
  • Once in a protected area heat water until warm to the touch (about 100-105 F) and soak affected areas
    • In the event you cannot place the affected area into water, soak a non-abrasive clean cloth in the water and apply to the affected area for about 20-30 minutes rewarming the cloth as needed, feeling should return
    • DO NOT use heating pads, stoves, etc. as you may damage the area further due to the lack of feeling in the affected area
  • Avoid breaking any blisters that may appear
  • Do not allow the affected area to re-freeze or be subjected to cold
  • Seek professional medical care as soon as you are safe to do so

Avalanche Information

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

Commercial Skiing/Snowboarding

If you ski or snowboard at a commercial ski area the risk from avalanches are much lower than in the back country. 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 no stray out of bounds or into closed areas. The avalanche risk is higher outside of the ski area boundaries.

Back Country Skiing/Snowboarding

If you want to enjoy the great outdoors in areas more prone to avalanches you can reduce the danger by following a few simple suggestions.

  • Check the current avalanche (CAIC) and weather (Wunderground) forecast for the areas you will be located
  • Never travel alone or without someone being aware of your location
  • If crossing a slope prone to avalanches do so one party member at a time to reduce danger
  • When in avalanche territory all members of your group should carry avalanche rescue equipment including an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe pole