Colorado: Big slides likely in the backcountry

Forecasters issue avalanche advisory for Summit-Vail and Front Range mountain zones

An avalanche near Vail Pass, Colorado.

Big, dangerous slides like this slab avalanche in Uneva Bowl, near Vail Pass, are likely in the Colorado backcountry the next few days. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dangerous avalanche conditions will persist across most of Colorado’s mountains for the next few days, as new snow and winds combine to bring the snowpack to its breaking point. With more snow in the forecast, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an advisory for the Vail-Summit and Front Range zones, valid through 8 a.m. Monday (Jan. 12).

Backcountry travelers are advised to avoid avalanche-prone slopes and to use cautious route-finding and conservative decision making.

“Dangerous Wind Slabs exist on exposed slopes facing toward the east side of the compass,” the forecasters wrote Sunday morning. “Slides in the new snow load could step down into older snow layers resulting in a large avalanche. Avoid all steep slopes with fresh wind load … Be prepared to move quickly to sheltered areas and exit your backcountry tours early.”

Near and above treeline, backcountry travelers will easily be able to trigger slides in the new snow, and those slides will potentially break down into deeper layers in the snowpack, releasing “large and very dangerous” avalanches.

The danger is widespread, forecasters said, showing little preference to specific terrain features. They can release unpredictably and wide, “wrapping around mountainsides.”

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