Incoming storm prompts avalanche, travel warnings

A NOAA weather satellite image shows a strong snowstorm headed for the Rocky Mountains.

A NOAA weather satellite image shows a strong snowstorm headed for the Rocky Mountains.

CAIC forecasters highlight ‘very real and rapidly increasing avalanche danger’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A developing winter storm has prompted the season’s first avalanche warning in the Colorado high county. With up to 12 inches of snow expected across the higher terrain, forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center say extra caution is required for backcountry travel this weekend.

“Don’t let the fresh snow blind you to the very real and rapidly increasing avalanche danger,” the CAIC posted on its website. The heaviest snow is expected Saturday afternoon and Saturday night and the thin and brittle early season snowpack likely won’t be able to support the fresh snow, especially in wind-loaded areas. Continue reading

Colorado: Spring storm packs a punch

Resorts reporting powder conditions, but road conditions could hamper access, while the backcountry avalanche danger soars

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An active northern jet stream is bringing cold air and moisture to the northern tier of states, including Colorado. On and off snow is possible through the weekend.

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The CAIC is reporting numerous backcountry avalanches. Click here for more photos.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — March is living up to its reputation as the snowiest month in the Colorado high country, with chilly spring storm snarling roads, intensifying avalanche danger and adding much-needed moisture to the state’s snowpack.

Ski areas around the state are generally reporting up to 12 inches of new snow in the past few days, and moderate to heavy snow continued falling Saturday morning. Some of the heaviest totals are expected east of the Continental Divide, where the California Department of Transportation reported bumper-to-bumper traffic around I-70 and C-470.

East of Denver, I-70 was closed to the Kansas border, and slick conditions on the westbound approach to the mountains prompted CDOT to require chains, snow tires or four-wheel drive for all vehicles in Mt. Vernon Canyon, just west of Denver.

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: 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: Avalanche warning in North San Juans

Avalanche warning in the north San Juans.

SUMMIT COUNTY — With anywhere from 5 to 9 inches of new snow piling atop a tender snowpack riddled with slabs, crusts and faceted crystals, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche warning for the North San Juans.

Natural avalanches are likely Sunday night into Monday morning, and backcountry travelers will face hazardous conditions in many areas. Backcountry skiers Saturday triggered a slide remotely south of Telluride. According to the CAIC, the group was below treeline on low angle terrain, where they collapsed a small slope which propogated nearly 1,000 feet away to trigger a slide that was 400 feet wide and ran 400 vertical feet.

Snow was reported across Colorado Sunday afternoon.

Several other slides were reported from the San Juans. Check out the CAIC website for more details. Up to 16 inches of snow could fall in the San Juans before the storm tapers off Monday morning, and with strong southwest winds, big and dangerous slabs will build up on leeward slopes near and above treeline.

“Triggering a storm slab or wind slab will stress the underlying weak snowpack increasing the likelihood of a larger and destructive avalanche,” the CAIC forecasters wrote in the warning.

Snow started falling in the northwest mountains Sunday afternoon, where accumulations will not be as great as in the San Juans. The storm will start to move east Monday, with drying skies and continued mild temperatures before another round of snowfall kicks in for the northern mountains Tuesday night.

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