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Summit Voice: Most-viewed & week in review

Climate, avalanches and photography!

The backcountry avalanche danger in Colorado remains high, and Summit Voice readers can stay informed with our regular avalanche updates.

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Year of the Dragon proved a popular topic with Summit Voice readers, who visited this guest post by Eileen Wacker more than 2,300 times. Some social media attention to ongoing climate science coverage helped drive a carbon dioxide-global warming story to more than 2,200 page views, while a pair of avalanche stories also garnered more than 2,000 page views combined. More social media love from a couple of meteorologists with The Weather Channel also helped boost a Colorado skiing photo essay into the ranks of the most-viewed stories.

Click on the headlines to read, then use the buttons at the end of the post to share the stories via your own social media networks. Thanks for supporting independent journalism in Colorado.

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Morning photo: Want snow?

A little weather whispering …

Early October snow coats the Continental Divide.

SUMMIT COUNTY — I’ve lived in Western mountain towns for 25 years, starting in Taos, New Mexico, then Mammoth Lakes, California, for a long stint, Durango and finally, here in Summit County. In that quarter century, I’ve seen just about every weather pattern you can imagine, and the only conclusion I can draw is that, eventually, the snow will come. Continue reading

Colorado: Hurricane-force winds in the high country

More snow on and off the next few days; Loveland Pass remains closed Sunday afternoon, only minor delays in the I-70 corridor


A downed tree block Snowshoe Circle in the Peak 7 area, near Breckenridge, Colorado. PHOTO BY JENNEY COBERLY.

A wind-splitered power pole near Breckenridge, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The first impulse of the weekend winter storm roared across the Colorado high country with hurricane-force winds, snarling roads, downing trees and knocking out power for a time Saturday night.

Near Silverthorne, resident Ken Hollis said he lost a 90-f00t-tall evergreen in his backyard up on the slopes of Buffalo Mountain.

Via Facebook, Claudia York reported:

“Power out on Hwy 9 at Tiger Road for 4 hours last night. Two big lodgepoles down at DNR Kennels along the bike trail. The wind picked up a heavy bench off my porch and threw it into my garden plot. Crazy night with no snow!”

Stephen Catterall from Breckenridge (via Facebook):

“Tree down at Gold Camp condos on Ski Hill Road. Just missed a classic Toyota Land Cruiser.”

Downed trees blocked both ends of the this road in the Bill's Ranch neighborhood, but the trees were removed early Sunday morning. PHOTO BY KATE HUDNUT.

National Weather Service spotters reported gusts of 115 mph in Frisco and Breckenridge, and an automated weather site near Berthoud Pass reported sustained winds of 86 mph before the anemometer broke. Loveland Pass and Kenosha Pass also saw gusts of up to 100 mph. Wind speeds reported during the storm are online at this National Weather Service website. From the Bill’s Ranch neighborhood, near Frisco, Kate Hudnut reported:

“We lost two trees and a swing set in our yard in Bill’s Ranch. Lots of trees down in the neighborhood but we have not heard if any houses were damaged.”

Bill’s Ranch residents commented that the trees being knocked down are trees that were still alive, rather than beetle-killed trees, probably because many of the live trees are standing singly, exposed to the wind, and the live boughs create a sail against the wind.

Kally Kuhlmann said her neighborhood up on Buffalo Mountain lost power 5 times in a two-hour period early Sunday morning.

Continue reading

Weatherblog: Maybe some rain early tonight?

A weather map for Summit County, Colorado

An incoming storm includes plenty of warm air that could bring some rain to elevations below 10,000 feet before changing to snow after midnight.

Warm Pacific storm rolling in, up to 6 inches possible along favored west and southwest-facing slopes

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Another day of warm temperatures expected in the high country before a Pacific storm rolls in to cool things down by a few degrees sometime tonight. But don’t expect a big powder dump. The storm will arrive on south winds and precipitation could begin as rain below 10,000 feet but will switch over to snow after midnight, when the colder part of the storm arrives.

Look for a chance of 1 to 3 inches of snow Monday night, bringing some dust-on-crust conditions for skiers and boarders. But some parts of the northern mountains, with favored west and southwest aspects, could get up to 6 inches of snow, with temperatures climbing into the low 30s, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. The storm will stick around through Tuesday and into Wednesday, followed by a slow warming trend with unsettled weather and a chance for afternoon showers lingering through the rest of the week. Continue reading

Massive snow slide kills snowmobiler in the Sawatch

Avalanche control work Friday at A-Basin ski area yielded several slides on west-facing terrain. The slide that killed a snowmobiler Friday in the southern Sawatch also ran on west-facing terrain, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Experts to try and reach the remote area Saturday to investigate the accident

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported that the fifth avalanche death of the winter happened March 12 in a remote backcountry area of the southern Sawatch around Marshall Pass, where a snowmobiler was killed by large avalanche that may have spanned a quarter-mile in width, and run 1,000 vertical feet.

CAIC forecaster Scott Toepfer said Chaffee County emergency crews responded to the scene, but that early reports are sketchy because it occurred in such a remote area. Toepfer said the slide covered a large area from well above treeline to well below treeline, fracturing four to five deep. He said the snowmobiler may have accessed the area either from Monarch Pass of from the La Garita area.

The season’s fourth avalanche death occurred just a few days earlier in the Summit County backcountry, where a snowboarder was killed in the Steep Gullies area, about a mile west of A-Basin.

On average, there are about five avalanche deaths per year in Colorado.

This winter, avalanche forecasters have warned of almost constant avalanche danger as early season snow turned to unconsolidated grains of sugar snow at the base of the snowpack, setting up dangerous conditions for the rest of the season.

In the Summit-Vail zone, the avalanche danger continues to be rated as considerable in many areas, with a significant risk of triggered slides.

Jan. 28 weather: More powder love for Wolf Creek

The Colorado snowpack map for Jan. 28 shows a sharp divide between north and south.

Backcountry rider buried but rescued in East Vail area

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A few more inches of new snow around the Summit area, and another dose of powder love for Wolf Creek, reporting 12 inches in the past 24 hours and a whopping 112-inch base. Powderhorn has been doing well this season and picked up another 6 inches from Wednesday’s storm, and Crested Butte reported 5 inches.

Locally, A-Basin reported 6 inches in the past two days, with the other Summit and Vail ski resorts posting storm totals between 3 and 5 inches. Copper is reporting a 40-inch base, while the automated SNOTEL reading from the Copper Mountain station at 10,500 feet is 29 inches. More snowpack stats and graphics after the break …

Continue reading

Jan. 27 weather: Still waiting for the Big One …

A colorful sunrise Wednesday looking west from the Summit Voice weather deck in Frisco, Colorado.

Triggered slides likely in the backcountry, big natural slides in the Gore, close calls at East Vail

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Up to 6 inches of new snow was reported across the area from Wednesday’s storm, and spotty precipitation remains in the forecast for the next few days, favoring the southern mountains. Cloud cover will increase throughout the day under mild temperatures and southerly winds.

Breckenridge reported 6 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours. Copper is reporting 4 inches, with 3.5 inches at A-Basin. Vail, Beaver Creek and Keystone all reported 3 inches.

Snowfall in the Summit and Vail area could pick up again Thursday as an area of low pressure moves across the state, although the current weather models show the energy splitting, with part of the storm tracking through Wyoming and the rest passing along the Colorado-New Mexico border. The southern piece of energy could bring some snow to Front Range south of Denver under southeasterly winds. Continue reading

Jan. 26 weather: CAIC says up to 12 inches by Thursday

Click on the image for a larger view. A storm forming over eastern Oregon could bring some decent snows to Summit County.

Storm setting up over Oregon is set to dive through Colorado the next few days, could it really be our turn?

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — All eyes are on a low pressure system forming right now over eastern Oregon that’s forecast to dive toward Colorado during the next 48 hours, bringing one of the best chances of significant snow that we’ve seen in several weeks.

Although the timing and exact track of the storm aren’t quite clear yet, forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center are saying that up to a foot of snow is possible in parts of the northern mountains by Thursday evening, so cross your fingers and wax your boards.

The first low pressure system should track through Wyoming this afternoon, rapidly increasing the cloud cover and bringing a chance of snow to the Flat Tops and Steamboat areas. A subsequent system will dive through the area and into New Mexico, but the CAIC crew said that moisture at the leading edge of the system could bring widespread precipitation to the northern mountains Wedneday through  Thursday.

The National Weather Service is cautioning that a slight shift southward in the storm track could keep the snow away from the northern half of Colorado, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Continue reading

Jan. 25 weather: Avalanche deaths in Utah, Idaho

A classic morning view of Peak One from Summit Voice headquarters in Frisco.

Inbounds avalanche at Sun Valley may have been in closed area, Utah death part of trend of people taking more risks in the sidecountry; Avalanche hazard varies across Summit and Vail zone from east to west

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A few more inches of new snow reported around the county, with the highest snowfall totals at Vail, where the ski area reported 19 inches for the past 48 hours. In Summit County,  24-hour snowfall totals were light, with 1 to 2 inches, but 8 inches reported by Breckenridge and 7 inches at Copper in the past two days.

HIghs today will only reach the teens under a cool northwest flow with strong gusts over the ridge tops. Lows will drop near zero the next few nights, but skies should warm back up into the mid-20s by Tuesday as the flow shifts back to the southwest ahead of an approaching storm.

Two avalanche deaths were reported around the west over the weekend, one inbounds at Sun Valley, although it’s not clear whether the slide was in a closed area. Read a report from OnTheSnow.com here. The second avalanche death was near Snowbasin, Utah in Hells Canyon, a sidecountry area where there have been previous avalanche deaths, according to the story in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Continue reading

Jan. 22 weather: ‘Extreme’ avy danger in San Juans

Just a dusting early Friday on a dead lodgepole branch (beauty in death?), but a promise of at least a few inches this weekend.

Storm sets low-pressure records in Arizona, shift to NW flow could deliver some snow to Summit this weekend

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — It was a wild night in Arizona, as the El Niño-fueled storm raging through the Southwest set some all-time records and triggered tornadoes in parts of the desert country along the Lower Colorado River.

The storm was the most powerful low pressure system ever recorded in Arizona, according meteorologist Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, who reported in his weather blog that wind gusts reached hurricane force between Phoenix and Tuscon.

Friday morning, the intense storm was centered almost exactly over the Four Corners.

The center of the system will be almost exactly over the Four Corners Friday morning, bringing more heavy snow and blizzard conditions to the San Juans of Colorado and other parts of the southwest, but only a few clouds and showers to Summit County.

Check out the Weather Underground blog for some amazing storm images and a great satellite view of the storm spinning into the Four Corners.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the favored areas for snowfall during the day Friday are Favored areas for snowfall next 12 hours are the San Juan Mountains, the Grand Mesa, the Marble, Flattops, West Elks and possibly Vail and Beaver Creek.

Continue reading

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