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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

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Colorado: Backcountry avalanche danger reaches red zone

Natural avalanche cycle expected; triggered slides likely

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Backcountry avalanches have been reported from the Vail Pass area.

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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: Avalanche danger ramps up with new snow, wind

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There’s already a layer of unstable faceted snow crystals at the base of the snowpack, potentially setting up avalanche hazards in the backcountry. Bob Berwyn photo.

Avalanche awareness classes being offered all around the state

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —There haven’t been any avalanche accidents yet this season in the Summit County backcountry, but avalanche control work around Loveland Pass triggered several slides that broke all the way to the ground and ran considerable distances, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

More than a foot of new snow combined with steady west-northwest winds have quickly ramped the backcountry avalanche danger up into the high end of the warning scale across most of Colorado’s northern and central mountains.

This season’s snowpack is starting out almost as poorly as last winter’s when snowslides claimed seven lives in Colorado. With skiers and riders eager to get out and sample some of the fresh powder, avy pros emphasize that education and awareness are the key to safe travel in the backcountry. Continue reading

Colorado: Storm closes I-70, avalanche warning issued

Near whiteout conditions along I-70 at the Eisenhower Tunnel Thursday at 7 a.m..

*Updated – CDOT announced the re-opening of I-70 between Denver and the high country at 10:30 a.m., with Vail Pass remaining closed for avalanche control work.

Late winter storm hits I-70 corridor and Front Range

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The storm that rolled into the area late Wednesday night has left the high country partially cut off, with dangerous avalanche conditions in the backcountry.

Both I-70 and Loveland Pass closed early Thursday morning.I-70 eastbound was closed between Vail Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel and westbound at the C-470 junction. Check www.CoTrip.org for updates.

In Summit County, the Breckenridge Free Ride and Summit Stage told riders to expect possible delays on many routes.

A winter storm warning is in effect through 11 a.m. Thursday. Snow totals ranged between 6 to 12 inches for the north-central mountains, with lesser amounts farther north, south and west. A-Basin reported 9 inches of snow  (14 inches in the past 48 hours), with 7 inches at Winter Park and Loveland, 12 inches at Eldora, 9 inches at Echo Mountain and 5 inches at Breckenridge. Continue reading

Colorado: Skier buried, suffers broken ribs in avalanche near Vail; ‘considerable’ slide danger persists in the backcountry

A slabby and fragile snowpack prevails in much of the Colorado backcountry. PHOTO COURTESY CAIC.

Triggered slides remain likely near and above treeline

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Considerable avalanche danger persists in the Colorado backcountry, where a skier this week was completely buried and suffered six broken ribs and a collapsed lung in a slide near Vail.

Forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the skier triggered the soft slab by jumping off a cliff on a north aspect hear Mushroom Bowl. His partners were able to uncover him from the slide that broke about 30 inches deep, 100 feet wide and ran about 380 vertical feet.

Another skier triggered yet another slide nearby while CAIC experts were on-site investigating the first avalanche. In the Tenmile Range, another slide was triggered by a falling cornice, illustrating the continued potential for natural slides. More information at the CAIC accidents web page.

With the backcountry avalanche danger rated as “considerable” triggered releases are still likely in many areas, specifically on northwest through south aspects near and above treeline.

Up to 12 inches of snow fell across much of the Vail-Summit zone fell since Monday, adding stress to a slabby snowpack riddled with weak layers. Check the CAIC forecast before heading into the backcountry.

Colorado: Backcountry avalanche watch issued

Snow Thursday night could set off another natural avalanche cycle

Parts of the Colorado mountains are under an avalanche watch. Click for more info.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A round of forecast snow — perhaps 4 to 10 inches Thursday night — could unleash another cycle of dangerous, naturally running backcountry avalanches, Colorado snow safety experts said, issuing an avalanche watch that covers the Front Range and mountains to the west from Fairplay up to Steamboat Springs.

Four people have died in avalanches this season, including two at ski areas. Get the latest backcountry update at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website.

An avalanche watch means that, if the weather forecast is accurate, the avalanche danger will rise to high in the watch area, with both natural and triggered slides likely. The watch is in effect through 11 a.m. Friday. A high danger rating means very dangerous backcountry avalanche conditions, and travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Specifically, the warning covers the Park Elkhead, Flattop, Front, Gore and Tenmile ranges. Continue reading

Colorado: Avalanche danger rises in the backcountry

Triggered avalanches are likely on many slopes in the Colorado backcountry.

Triggered slides likely on many slopes

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Snowfall and wind have combined to push the backcountry snowpack in Colorado to the tipping point, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, where forecasters issued an avalanche advisory valid through 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Across much of the state, the avalanche danger is rated as considerable, with natural avalanches possible and triggered avalanches likely on many steep slopes, including below treeline. Backcountry travelers will also see remotely triggered slides and experience signs of instability, including cracks and collapsing slabs. It will be possible to trigger avalanches from lower-angle slopes well below the starting zones. Continue reading

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