Posted on April 18, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
A winter-like series of storms has resulted in considerable avalanche risks in parts of the Colorado backcountry.
Risk of slides persists in the backcountry
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s backcountry snowpack proved deadly for the sixth time this winter, as a snowboarder was killed Thursday by an avalanche in the backcountry near Vail Pass — specifically in an area known as Avalanche Bowl, on Ptarmigan Hill.
According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the accident involved a group of three skiers using snowmobiles to access fresh backcountry powder at a time when the snowpack was more winter-like than spring at higher elevations.
The CAIC reported that one of the riders was caught and washed into a stand of trees, where he likely died of injuries. The deep, persistent-slab avalanche likely released on a northerly aspect in a near-treeline area, according to the CAIC. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, Colorado, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: avalanche deaths, backcountry, Colorado, Ptarmigan Hill avalanche, Vail Pass avalanche death | Leave a Comment »
Posted on January 28, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Out-of-bounds treks focus on backcountry education
Kirkwood guests experience some sweet Sierra backcountry with a snowcat tour. Photo courtesy Kirkwood Mountain Resort.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — After picking up more than 260 inches of snow this season, Kirkwood Mountain Resort says its ready to launch its out-of-bounds cat-skiing trips for the late winter and spring season, with E:K Cat Tours taking advanced skiers and riders on an adventure to hunt down fresh turns with a focus on backcountry education and safety.
“Expedition:Kirkwood is the West Coast’s largest avalanche awareness and backcountry certification program, but what we’re really known for are the cat tours,” said Casey Blann, Kirkwood’s general manager. “This program is for the advanced skiers and riders who are looking for a completely unique resort experience. Not only gaining the skills for skiing and riding steep terrain, but hang on as your cat operator navigates his way up a road that’s not for the faint of heart.” (more…)
Filed under: Ski Resorts, skiing and riding | Tagged: backcountry, backcountry education, Kirkwood, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, powder skiing, skiing, snowcat tours | Leave a Comment »
Posted on December 26, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
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. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, climate and weather, Colorado, snow, Snow and weather, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: avalanches, backcountry, Colorado snow, Colorado weather, skiing, Winter storm | Leave a Comment »
Posted on December 18, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
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.
Filed under: avalanches, climate and weather, Colorado, Snow and weather | Tagged: avalanche danger, backcountry, Colorado, Colorado snow, Colorado weather, skiing | 1 Comment »
Posted on November 25, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Two mountain lions rest in a shady spot. Photo courtesy USFWS.
Part of Big Bend National Park closed
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — National Park Service officials say a woman attacked by a mountain lion in Big Bend National Park, Texas, did not suffer life-threatening injuries.
Andrea Pinero Cebrian and companions were exploring the Mesa de Anguila, near Lajitas Friday, Nov. 23 when she was attacked. Cebrian was treated by Terlingua Medics.
The Mesa de Anguila has been closed to all visitors while rangers and park biologists investigate and patrol in search of the mountain lion.
“Visitor safety is our main concern here in Big Bend and we will monitor and close the Mesa until we deem it safe for visitors,” said park superintendent Cindy Ott-Jones.
Fatal mountain lion attacks are rare in the U.S. The most recent documented fatality was in June, 2008 in Pinos Altos, New Mexico. In Colorado, the most recent mountain lion fatality was in 1997, when 10-year-old Mark Miedema was killed by an adult female cougar when he hiked ahead of his family on Rocky Mountain National Park.
Wildlife experts say the best course of action if you meet a mountain lion is to stay calm and talk firmly and quietly to the animal while backing away slowly.
- Do not run.
- Raise you arms to appear larger.
- If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches, or whatever you can get your hands on. Do not crouch down or turn your back.
- Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back.
Filed under: national parks, public lands, wildlife | Tagged: backcountry, Big Bend national park, hiking, mountain lion attack, Texas, wildlife | Leave a Comment »
Posted on November 9, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Daily forecasts posted online
Early season snow can quickly pile up and create avalanche risks in the Colorado mountains.
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is up and running for the season, offering daily weather forecasts tailored to specific geographic mountain areas and general early season avalanche information. Zone-specific avalanche updates and warnings will start to flow as soon the snow starts piling up, at the latest by Thanksgiving, said CAIC director Ethan Greene. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, climate and weather, Colorado, snow, Snow and weather, Summit County Colorado, Summit County news, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: avalanches, backcountry, CAIC, Colorado, Colorado Avalanche Information Center | Leave a Comment »
Posted on April 11, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Zone forecasts end, statewide forecasts issued three times per week
Debris from a March 30 wet snow avalanche that killed a skier near Ophir, Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO AVALANCHE INFORMATION CENTER.
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has switched to a spring forecasting mode, ending zone-specific updates in favor of a statewide forecast emphasizing overall spring avalanche awareness.
The CAIC will continue to issue weather forecasts twice a day, through April 30, with statewide avalanche statements Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, by 5 p.m. through the end of April and into May if conditions warrant.
CAIC director Ethan Greene said the change came a couple of weeks earlier than usual, prompted by a March snowpack meltdown that left many mountain areas nearly high and dry. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, recreation, search and rescue, skiing and riding, Snow and weather, Uncategorized | Tagged: avalanches, backcountry, CAIC, Colorado, skiing | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 31, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Spring conditions lead to large wet snow slides
Upper Paradise Basin slide. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO AVALANCHE INFORMATION CENTER.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is reporting the seventh avalanche death of the 2011-2012 season, as a backcountry skier was caught and killed in wet snow slide near Ophir Pass in the San Juans.
The accident occurred March 30 on an east-southeast aspect high above treeline in a well-known slide path. According to preliminary reports, the slide fractured about 24-inches deep and 550-feet across, and ran down a steep gully for almost 2,000 feet in an area known as Upper Paradise Basin.
CAIC investigators said they will visit the site Saturday to compile a full report. The preliminary report says the slide happened at about 4 p.m.
Wet snow avalanches frequently run in the spring during warm cycles in the weather, as melted snow percolates through the snowpack, lubricating harder layers below the surface.
Overall, the avalanche danger in the North San Juans was rated as moderate for the day, with a warning that the snowpack was susceptible to rapid destabilization in the afternoon under the influence of warm temps and sunshine. As well, a layer of dust on the snow was expected to speed melting.
From the March 30 conditions report:
“Deep persistent weak layers remain a concern on shady, high elevation steep slopes facing northwest through north to east. These deep slabs are difficult to initiate, but if you trigger an avalanche, it would be large and destructive.”
Filed under: avalanches, seasons, Snow and weather | Tagged: backcountry, backcountry avalanche death San Juans, Colorado avalanche death, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Upper Paradise Basin avalanche death | 3 Comments »
Posted on February 16, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
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.
Filed under: avalanches, Colorado, recreation, skiing and riding, snow, Snow and weather | Tagged: avalanche danger, backcountry, Colorado, skiing, Vail | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 31, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Numerous slides reported from the Vail-Summit and Front Range mountains
Beautiful tracks in a dangerous spot.
SUMMIT COUNTY — A few days of sunny and relatively warm conditions haven’t eased the backcountry avalanche danger by much, according to forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
The hazard is rated as considerable in nearly all the mountains of Colorado — with the exception of the south San Juans. With dense slabs sitting atop a weak base of faceted sugar snow, natural slides are still likely in some spots, and backcountry travelers can easily trigger avalanches by hitting weak spots in the snowpack
Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making are all required for safe travel in the backcountry, according to the CAIC’s latest bulletin. (more…)
Filed under: avalanches, search and rescue, skiing and riding, Snow and weather, Summit County Colorado, Summit County snow and weather | Tagged: backcountry, Berthoud Pass, Colorado, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Loveland Pass, skiing, snow avalanches, weather | 1 Comment »