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Colorado: Report says deadly Loveland Pass slide went unnoticed for several hours

State report concludes the April 20 avalanche accident that killed five people was avoidable

Looking east along the crown line of an April 20 avalanche that killed five men in the Sheep Creek drainage

Looking east along the crown line of an April 20 avalanche that killed five men in the Sheep Creek drainage near Loveland Pass, Colorado. Photo courtesy CAIC.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s April in Colorado and heavy snow is falling on the mountains of the Continental Divide, where a high-spirited group of mountain enthusiasts gather to plan a short backcountry tour, envisioning dreamy, floating turns and faceshots on the slopes of Mt. Sniktau, a mountain along the Continental Divide between Loveland Ski Area and Arapahoe Basin where planners once hoped to create an Olympic ski arena.

Well equipped and versed in backcountry travel, the six men head up Loveland Pass, a Mecca for Colorado backcountry skiers since the early days of the sport. At Scotty’s Corner, the last hairpin before the crest, the men headed east across the face of the 13,234-foot peak, aiming for northwest facing slopes on the far side of a broad gully that splits the face of the peak, according to an April 24 report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Recognizing the potential danger of avalanches, the group identifies what they thought was a safe zone near a cluster of trees on a knoll on the far side of the drainage. They discuss the avalanche danger again, agreeing to spread out as they crossed the slope. But they aren’t cautious enough, given the magnitude of the slide they ultimately trigger at about 10:15 a.m. Continue reading

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Colorado: Lynx study expanded to Loveland Pass

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Drop-off box for GPS units at Loveland Pass.

Research to help conservation and recreation planning efforts

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A multi-year Forest Service study aimed at better understanding how lynx react to human recreational activities was expanded to new areas in Colorado this year, including Loveland Pass, Leadville and Telluride.

Previous efforts have focused on the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area, where  scientists captured lynx and fitted them with collars to transmit GPS data. At the same time, the Forest Service researchers asked skiers and snowmobilers to take GPS transmitters along on their excursions.

A thorough analysis of the data will help land managers make science-based decisions about how to allocate resources as they balance the demand for recreation with a mandate to protect habitat for rare animals like lynx, protected under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Morning photo: Potpourri …

Peak to plains

A sinking sun sends shafts of light through the clouds near DIA.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Some on-the-go Instagramming from the last few days … I’ve been missing posting the morning photo essay, but trying to stay on top of all the wildfire info is keeping me hopping. Continue reading

Colorado: Lane closures and delays along I-70, as CDOT improves traffic signage, plans for new Twin Tunnels bore

New info signs going up; inspections and survey work at the Twin Tunnels

Eastbound I-70 travelers will some lane closures and delays between Silverthorne and Idaho Springs the next few weeks.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — It could be tough going on and off for eastbound travelers on I-70 between Silverthorne and Denver this week, as the Colorado Department of Transportation adds electronic traffic information signs and works on the eastbound bore of the Twin Tunnels, near Idaho Springs.

The inspection and survey work in the tunnel is in preparation for a major project next year that would add a third lane at the highway chokepoint. One lane of I-70 will remain closed through June 8. CDOT expects the lane closure to be lifted by 10 a.m. and drivers should anticipate delays approaching the tunnel, especially during daytime hours. Traffic stops may also take place during night hours. Continue reading

Colorado: Backcountry avalanche danger persists

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. Continue reading

Colorado: A little powder in the backcountry

Not a whole lot of snow in the Colorado high country, but enough for large slides like this one that partially buried a skier near Berthoud Pass. PHOTO COURTESY CAIC. Click on the image for more photos and the full report, including a video presentation.

Avalanche danger holding steady; isolated large slides still possible

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After a quick spike in the backcountry avalanche danger late in the weekend, the new snow in most areas has settled and bonded reasonably well to the old surface, thanks in part to a warm start to the storm and relatively calm winds.

Overall, the avalanche danger is rated as moderate for all aspects near and above treeline. Natural avalanches are unlikely, while triggered avalanches are possible. Large avalanches are possible in isolated areas. Below treeline, the danger is rated as low with a slight chance of triggered slides in isolated spots. Continue reading

Colorado avalanche center starts daily bulletins

An unstable snowpack is developing on popular backcountry ski terrain like the Steep Gullies, between A-Basin and Keystone.

Current danger is rated moderate, with a chance of triggered slides

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center started daily zone forecasts and bulletins this week by warning of the dangers of a classic early season snowpack that, near treelike, is marked by stiff layers of windslab resting gingerly atop a weak base on non-cohesive faceted grains. Find your zone here.

For social media users, the CAIC is also posting updates on Twitter from the various zones around the state. The Twitter directory is online here.

“Signs of instability are plentiful. You should not ignore the shooting cracks and big whumps, and avoid traveling on or under steep terrain when you encounter them,” the CAIC experts said in their Nov. 23 update for the Vail and Summit zones, adding that slide activity has slowed since last weekend, but that there have still been recent reports of triggered avalanches. Continue reading

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