Some parts of the San Juans have already picked up 5 feet of snow
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Although there haven’t been any avalanche accidents reported yet this season, the experts with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center say backcountry travelers should start thinking about the potential risks as the snow starts to pile up.
Last winter season, the first accident occurred Oct. 24 near Crested Butte, followed by three other close calls the first two weeks of November. The first fatality came Nov. 22, when Wolf Creek ski patrol director Scott Kay was buried and killed while doing avalanche control work. See the details from early season avalanche accidents at this CAIC web page.
In one of the season’s first weather bulletins, forecaster Scott Toepfer invoked a familiar early season mantra: “If there’s enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide.” In some high-elevation spots, leftover snow patches from last year could provide avalanche running surfaces, and in other areas, the snow that fell in late September and earlier in October has already turned to granular crystals that form an unstable base.
CAIC director Ethan Greene said backcountry skiers in the San Juans should be especially wary, considering that some parts of the southwestern mountains have already picked up five feet of snow (68 inches to-date at Wolf Creek).
Many areas across the state already have a snowpack that’s one to three feet deep, and cold nighttime temperatures have started the process of building those dreaded depth hoar layers that will fail under the weight of subsequent accumulations.
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