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.
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.
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.
Triggered slides remain likely near and above treeline
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Considerable avalanche dangerpersists 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.
Snow Thursday night could set off another natural avalanche cycle
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.
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: Backcountry avalanche watch issued”→
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 “Colorado: Avalanche danger rises in the backcountry”→