Snow in the West has been on the ground in quantities deep enough for backcountry recreation for a little more than two weeks and already avalanches have killed three people.
On Sunday, a Colorado backcountry skier died in a 15-foot avalanche in Clear Creek County between Denver and Breckenridge.
An in-bounds slide Nov. 22 at Colorado's Wolf Creek Ski Area killed the ski patrol director.
A Nov. 27 slide triggered by a snowmobiler on the Utah-Wyoming border killed a 54-year-old man.
So far, the weather pattern is looking favorable for a stellar snow year. Good snow coverage always makes the lure of backcountry skiing, boarding and snowmobiling nearly irresistible.
People who engage in backcountry recreation always say they take precautions and understand the risks. Unfortunately, many really don't do either. Worse, because time is limited for weekend recreationists, they may foolishly proceed in risky conditions in areas that on another day would be perfectly safe.
Even if rescuers reach an avalanche victim in a short time and even if the victim has a breathing apparatus, it may be too late because the snow may crush him.
Education and knowledge are key. If you don't know, don't go. There's a reason "controlled" ski areas exist. Or, reduce your risk and hire a knowledgeable guide who is trained and intimately familiar with the backcountry.
Taking foolish risks not only kills, but damages families and friends, and may endanger the lives of rescuers.
Calculated risk is one thing. Foolish risk is quite another. An ounce of prevention can keep people alive for more great days in the snow.