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Backcountry: Four avalanche deaths since March 1

Slide8New snow brings spike in avalanche danger

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Avalanches have killed four people since March 1, including a snowboarder near Cameron Pass (west of Fort Collins, March 2), a snowmobiler in Utah and a climber on Mountain Washington, in New Hampshire.

The latest Colorado avalanche was a monster, breaking up to six feet deep in places. The slide was estimated at 1,200 feet wide and broke trees as it crashed down the mountain. A second person was injured in the slide and evacuated from the scene by helicopter, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Continue reading

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Colorado skiers warned about rope-ducking risks

Sketchy snowpack makes Summit County sheriff, resorts edgy


A large Feb. 25 avalanche near Francie’s Cabin. Some of the hard debris chunks were 4-5 feet thick. Photo courtesy Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A sketchy snowpack and a series of avalanches in and near ski areas has prompted a joint warning on rope-ducking from Summit County Sheriff John Minor and local resorts.

Ducking a rope is also against the law as the part of the Colorado the Ski Safety Act of 1979.  “You can face charges for this,” Minor said. “Don’t be naïve about the risk you’re taking, and don’t put others in danger because of your bad decisions.”

In one recent accident, a snowboarder ducked a rope at Keystone within sight of numerous people and broke through a cornice that triggered a slide. The man was caught and issued a summons by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office for skiing in a closed area. Continue reading

Skiing: Backcountry snowpack touchy in Colorado

Monthly Breckenridge ski patrol talk to focus on backcountry travel techniques and terrain choices

There's plenty of good backcountry powder skiing in Summit County, but it's best to stay on low-angle terrain right now, like this 28-degree slope on Baldy, Photo courtesy Matt Krane.

There’s plenty of good backcountry powder skiing in Summit County, but it’s best to stay on low-angle terrain right now, like this 28-degree slope on Baldy, Photo courtesy Matt Krane.


CAIC forecaster Tim Brown examines the crown face of a large avalanche in Montezuma Bowl, at Arapahoe Basin. Photo courtesy CAIC.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With forecasters warily eying backcountry avalanche hazards and more snow on the way this week, Breckenridge ski patrollers will focus on safe backcountry travel techniques, route-finding and terrain selection during their monthly talk this Thursday evening (Village at Breckenridge, Tenmile Room, 6 p.m.).

The topic is especially timely following recent close calls and a cycle of natural slides in the backcountry, said Breckenridge ski patroller Matt Krane. Last week, a party of four backcountry travelers were involved with a sizable slide on Peak 6. Continue reading

Ullr: The comeback kid!


A snowboarder enjoys freshies at Copper Mountain in Summit County, Colorado. Photo courtesy Copper Mountain Resort/Tripp Fay.

Winter storm warnings from Tuesday through Thursday in Colorado; avalanche danger to peak in the mountains

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Snow piled up in a big way at some Colorado ski areas and more is on the way. National Weather Service forecasters are tracking a moist flow off the Pacific that favors the northwestern mountains. Much of the state’s high country is under a winter storm warning, from Steamboat down through Fairplay.

The warning is in effect from 5 p.m. Tuesday to 5 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 31) and covers parts of the I-70 corridor. Snow and blowing snow will hinder traffic over the high passes in the region. Snow is expected to continue through Thursday with periods of heavy snow and strong winds.

The snow is a huge relief for ski areas and water managers. Already, some resorts have picked up multiple feet of snow. According to Colorado Ski Country, Silverton Mountain in the San Juans reported 78 inches of snow in the past few days, about double of the 36 inches reported at Wolf Creek.

Along the I-70 corridor, Copper reported a 6-inch storm total and declared a Snow Day for a special breed of passholders who can ski anytime there’s 4 inches or more of snow under the terms of a $99 season-long Snow Say pass. Continue reading

Avalanche warning issued for Colorado’s South San Juans

Backcountry travelers need to stay tuned to avalanche warnings the next few days. Photo by Dylan Berwyn.

Backcountry travelers need to stay tuned to avalanche warnings the next few days. Photo by Dylan Berwyn.

Chilly storm to bring more snow early in the week

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Forecasters are expecting a natural avalanche cycle in the south San Juans, where heavy snow and strong winds Saturday night loaded avalanche starting zones. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche warning for the south San Juans.

“Large and dangerous avalanches are likely,” the CAIC forecasters said, urging backcountry travelers to avoid avalanche terrain.

About 10 to 15 inches of dense snow piled up, with southwest winds building slabs at higher elevations. At all elevations and all aspects, the new snow sits atop layers of old persistent slabs and non-cohesive faceted kernels of snow at the base. Slides in the storm slab layer can step down into older snow, resulting in big avalanches potentially running long distances. Continue reading

Colorado: Avalanche warning in the San Juans

backcountry skier

The latest storm has increased the backcountry avalanche danger in the San Juans and western Colorado mountains. Bob Berwyn photo.

Natural avalanche cycle expected, with large and dangerous slides possible

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Snowfall rates of up to 1 inch per hour, strong winds and a weak base layer have upped the avalanche danger in the San Juans to the critical zone. Forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center Friday issued an avalanche warning for the northern and Southern San Juans, where large and dangerous slides are likely and travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended.

The avalanche danger is rated as high on west, northwest, north, northeast and east aspects at all elevations. The danger is considerable on southeast, south and southwest aspects at all elevations in the San Juans. The avalanche warning is in effect through Saturday morning, but the threat of slides will persist through the weekend.

By Friday morning, up to 14 inches of snow had already piled up in parts of the San Juans, with winds gusting as high as 80 mph. The biggest snow totals were reported around Red Mountain Pass, Coal Bank Pass and the Weminuche Wilderness. Continue reading

Colorado: Ski patroller dies in avalanche at Snowmass

Colorado far exceeds any other state in the number of reported avalanche fatalities since 1950. Graph courtesy CAIC.

Colorado far exceeds any other state in the number of reported avalanche fatalities since 1950. Graph courtesy Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Three deaths reported across the country so far this season

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is reporting the first avalanche death of the 2012-2013 winter occurred Sunday, Dec. 30 at Snowmass.

According to the preliminary report, the 49-year-old female ski patroller was skiing alone in a permanently closed area called the Ship’s Prow Glades, in the Hanging Valley Area. The woman’s name is being withheld pending notification of family. Continue reading

Winter storm winding up across Colorado

Avalanche incidents on the rise in the backcountry


A winter storm swirls across Colorado.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A slow-moving winter storm crossing Colorado Wednesday night through Thursday could deliver several more inches of snow to soften up the slopes for the incoming wave of holiday skiers.

The National Weather Service issued winter weather advisories for most of the western Colorado mountains, where 3 to 10 inches of snow could pile up by late Thursday night. Snow started falling in the southern mountains Wednesday morning under a southwest flow, but most ski areas only reported a trace as of Wednesday evening, with the exception of Silverton Mountain which reported 8 inches (36-inch base) in the afternoon snow report from Colorado Ski Country USA.

The heaviest snow in the central and northern mountains is expected after midnight. Winds from the west and northwest could bring 2 to 5 inches of snow to favored west-facing slopes. Light to moderate snow could continue into Thursday night before tapering off as high pressure builds into the region, bringing cold temperatures for late in the week and the first part of the weekend. Continue reading

Colorado: Backcountry avalanche danger reaches red zone

Natural avalanche cycle expected; triggered slides likely


Backcountry avalanches have been reported from the Vail Pass area.


High avalanche danger in parts of the high country, Click on the map for the interactive version on the CAIC website.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche watch for parts of the high country, from the Steamboat/Flattops zone down through the Grand Mesa and the Aspen/Gunnison area, where dangerous avalanche conditions prevail.

Forecasters expect to see a natural cycle of small to mediu, slides during the next 24 hours, and triggered avalanches are likely in many backcountry areas. Any paths that don’t slide naturally could be prone to large avalanches in the coming days, CAIC forecaster Scott Toepfer wrote in the Tuesday morning update.

Snowfall rates in some mountain areas could reach 2 inches per hour, leading to rapid additional loading on top of a weak base layer — an ideal recipe for dangerous snow slides. Fresh storm slabs will be easily triggered by backcountry travelers, and winds will lead to the formation of brittle wind slaps on lee slopes.

More often than not, the season’s first significant storm cycle leads to avalanche accidents, as eager skiers and riders head out to sample the fresh powder — don’t become a statistic. Practice safe route-finding and stay away from steeper slopes near and above treeline, where triggered slides are almost certain.

Check the CAIC website for updated before heading into the backcountry.



Colorado: The storm door is open

“You may want to call in sick and ride blue-bird powder for a few days prior to the apocalypse … ”        ~Colorado Avalanche Information Center


A potent weather system is developing for the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.


Winter storm warnings, watches and advisories prevail across western Colorado and eastern Utah. Click on the map for more details from the NWS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Dreams of a white Christmas will come true for residents of the Colorado high country, as a series of winter storms will potentially drop up to several feet of snow across most of the state’s mountains in the days leading up to Santa’s arrival.

Most of the mountain areas are under winter storm warnings, watches and advisories for the early part of the week, as the wintry weather is expected to culminate with a strong system moving through the area Tuesday night that could deliver some “eye-popping” snowfall rates, according to the National Weather Service, which may soon be issuing blizzard warnings in some mountain zones.

The snow will also drastically increase the backcountry avalanche danger, where special warnings may be issues. Check in with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center for the latest. Already, large avalanches have been reported from a few locations, including Uneva Bowl, a popular powder skiing destination near Vail Pass. Continue reading


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