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Colorado: Backcountry avalanche danger is ‘considerable’

Faceted sugar snow, fresh windslab combine to make triggered releases likely on many slopes in the Summit-Vail area

Tricky avalanche conditions prevail in the backcountry.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With clear and calm weather expected through the Christmas weekend and throngs of skiers and boarders expected in the high country, avalanche experts are warning  not to underestimate the dangers of  the thin and tricky early season snowpack in the backcountry.

The avalanche was rated as considerable as of late Wednesday, which means that triggered slides are likely and natural avalanches are possible.

“Small, human-triggered avalanches are likely in many areas,” in the Summit-Vail zone, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecasters wrote in their bulletin following the latest storm. And given the sparse snowpack, even a small avalanche could potentially step down to the ground and drag backcountry travelers through rocks and trees.

The most recent storm also brought easterly winds to the area, potentially loading areas that aren’t generally considered to be avalanche starting zones under the more prevalent westerlies. Fresh and brittle windslabs on east aspects are sitting atop unstable layers of faceted snow that offers almost no cohesion.

The most likely places to trigger avalanches are lee and cross-loaded slopes of more than 35 degrees, according to the CAIC.

With chilly temperatures expected to linger into Friday, the avalanche danger probably won’t subside much until later in the weekend.

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