Avalanche Danger In Colorado Expected To Spike After Blizzard

Avalanche Danger In Colorado Expected To Spike After Blizzard

Avalanche

Avalanche Danger In Colorado Expected To Spike After Blizzard

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Everyone is stoked on the early season snowfall and for good reason. Tahoe is having the best early season it’s had in over a decade and Colorado continues to get hammered by storm after storm. Also, the PNW is overtaking all the rest in a single storm that is currently pummeling Mt. Baker Ski Area. All the publicity is enough to push the stoke meter to EXTREME and before you know it… BOOM avalanche season is in full swing.

Related: Avalanche Season Is Upon Us! | 3 Incidents Yesterday Involving Skiers

So as every conversation centers around the abundance of early season snow as well as the FOMO related to neck-deep powder shots taken inbounds and beyond, we want to take an Unofficial look into the early season snowpacks around North America.

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Photo Credit: CAIC

In anticipation of dangerous avalanche conditions in the coming days, we are taking a look at Colorado and how The Colorado Avalanche Information Center thinks the snowpack will shake out throughout and after the upcoming storm. Today, the CAIC is predicting the San Juans’ avalanche danger to rise to “High,” while other areas of the state will elevate to a “Considerable” danger. The danger is mainly due to an early season weak layer that is causing a possible persistent slabs problem across much of the state and with up to 24” forecasted in some places, that danger is only rising…

Read Below for CAIC details and don’t forget to donate… (Link Above)

San Juans

Photo Credit: CAIC

Photo Credit: CAIC

Avalanche Watch: 

A large winter storm is moving through the Southern Mountains of Colorado. Snowfall is forecast to continue on Monday and into Tuesday. The new snow and wind drifted snow falling on a weak snowpack will cause the avalanche danger to rise through this period. Human triggered avalanches are likely today. If forecast snow amounts verify, natural avalanches will be likely tonight and on Tuesday morning. Avoid traveling on or under steep snow covered slopes in near and above treeline areas. 

CAIC Summary for Southern San Juan

A large winter storm is moving through the San Juan Mountains today and through Tuesday. Storm totals this morning are around 6″ on the west side of the zone and closer to 12″ (1″ of water) in the Coal Bank Pass and Wolf Creek Pass areas. There is more snow in the forecast and we have issued an Avalanche Watch for both the Northern and Southern San Juan zones. The avalanche danger is climbing today and could reach HIGH (Level 4) overnight if forecast snow amounts verify.

The new snow is falling on a very weak snow surface. Today you will be able to trigger a Persistent Slab avalanche the breaks at the new/old snow interface or that breaks into old snow layers. As the new snow load increases, so will the likelihood of triggering one of these avalanches. The most dangerous places are areas where you could have triggered a Persistent Slab avalanche yesterday. These are slopes that are near or above treeline and face northwest, to north, through east. 

The snowpack below treeline remains thin and weak, but today’s snowfall will increase the avalanche danger. The most dangerous places are areas where a firm, cohesive slab is resting on the old weaker snow. Avoid traveling in gullies or other terrain traps where even a small avalanche could push you into an obstacle or produce a debris pile deep enough to bury you.

CAIC Summary For Northern San Juan

A large winter storm is moving through the San Juan Mountains today and through Tuesday. Storm totals are 6″ on Slumgullion Pass, 7″ near Telluride, and 11″ on Red Mountain Pass. There is more snow in the forecast and we have issued an Avalanche Watch for both the Northern and Southern San Juan zones. The avalanche danger is climbing today and could reach HIGH (Level 4) overnight if forecast snow amounts verify.

The new snow is falling on a very weak snow surface. Today you will be able to trigger a Persistent Slab avalanche the breaks at the new/old snow interface or that breaks into old snow layers. As the new snow load increases, so will the likelihood of triggering one of these avalanches. The most dangerous places are areas where you could have triggered a Persistent Slab avalanche yesterday. These are slopes that are near or above treeline and face northwest, to north, through east. 

The snowpack below treeline remains thin and weak, but today’s snowfall will increase the avalanche danger. The most dangerous places are areas where a firm, cohesive slab is resting on the old weaker snow. Avoid traveling in gullies or other terrain traps where even a small avalanche could push you into an obstacle or produce a debris pile deep enough to bury you.

Aspen + Gunnison

Photo Credit: CAIC

Photo Credit: CAIC

CAIC Summary for Gunnison

A powerful storm will sweep across the Elk Mountains and Gunnison zone today, bringing 1-2 feet of new snow at upper elevations and rising avalanche danger. Moderate winds will accompany the snowfall. Expect dangerous Storm and Persistent Slab avalanche problems to develop because of high snowfall rates and drifting snow. As the day progresses, large, human-triggered avalanches will become likely. Natural and remotely-triggered slides will be possible on and below steep slopes. Be alert for rapidly changing conditions and increasing danger.

The snowpack on most shady slopes is shallow, with weak, faceted layers at the base and/ or surface. The likelihood of slides breaking 1-3 feet deep on these layers will rise as the snow accumulates. Because of these faceted layers, remotely-triggered avalanches are possible. Treat the building slab as a Persistent Slab problem and avoid being below slopes steeper than about 30 degrees, including terrain traps below treeline. 

On sunny slopes near and above treeline, the new snow won’t bond well to the crusts leftover from last week’s sunny days and mild temperatures. This Storm Slab avalanche problem will become more widespread, more reactive and larger as the snow accumulates during the day. Be leery of slopes steeper than about 35 degrees.

The storm is forecast to start warm but end cold, making for lighter density snow at the snow surface. Winds should be southerly most of the day, then veer to the northwest late afternoon and increase in speed. This combination may start forming thicker, more cohesive slabs on easterly slopes late in the day

CAIC Summary For Aspen

A powerful storm will sweep across the Aspen zone today, bringing 1-2 feet of new snow at upper elevations and rising avalanche danger. Moderate winds will accompany the snowfall. Expect dangerous Storm and Persistent Slab avalanche problems to develop because of high snowfall rates and drifting snow. As the day progresses, large, human-triggered avalanches will become likely. Natural and remotely-triggered slides will be possible on and below steep slopes. Be alert for rapidly changing conditions and increasing danger.

The snowpack on most shady slopes is shallow, with weak, faceted layers at the base and/ or surface. The likelihood of slides breaking 1-3 feet deep on these layers will rise as the snow accumulates. Because of these faceted layers, remotely-triggered avalanches are possible. Treat the building slab as a Persistent Slab problem and avoid being below slopes steeper than about 30 degrees, including terrain traps below treeline. 

On sunny slopes near and above treeline, the new snow won’t bond well to the crusts leftover from last week’s sunny days and mild temperatures. This Storm Slab avalanche problem will become more widespread, more reactive and larger as the snow accumulates during the day. Be leery of slopes steeper than about 35 degrees.

The storm is forecast to start warm but end cold, making for lighter density snow at the snow surface. Winds should be southerly most of the day, then veer to the northwest late afternoon and increase in speed. This combination may start forming thicker, more cohesive slabs on easterly slopes late in the day.

Vail

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Photo Credit: CAIC

CAIC Summary

A strong winter storm will impact the Vail-Summit zone starting today. Snowfall has already started and we could see 4 to 6 inches of accumulation by the end of the day. Fortunately winds won’t be very strong, so this modest load will not be enough to increase the avalanche danger for today. Small Storm Slab avalanches are possible by this afternoon if we pile up more than 6 inches of snow. An additional 6 to 9 inches of snowfall and strengthening northwest winds overnight will change things for tomorrow. You can expect both human-triggered and natural avalanches to become more likely.

The main concern for today remains triggering a Persistent Slab avalanche. You are most likely to trigger this kind of avalanche on near and above treeline slopes facing northwest through northeast to east. Drifted snow from previous storms has created a patchy slab distribution. Watch for stiffer slabs in cross-loaded gullies, downwind of terrain features, and just below ridge lines. The slabs overlie persistent weak layers composed of early-season snow near the bottom of the snowpack that has become weaker over the last week or two.The snowpack is still thin and discontinuous on most slopes. The areas with the deepest snow accumulations are also the most susceptible to triggering an avalanche. Most of the avalanches will be small, but some could be big enough to bury and kill a person.

The snowpack below treeline remains thin and weak. Shallowly buried rocks and stumps are a greater risk than avalanches in these areas. You can still trigger an avalanche if you find an isolated area where a firm, cohesive slab is resting on the old weaker snow. Avoid traveling in gullies or other terrain traps where even a small avalanche could push you into an obstacle or produce a debris pile deep enough to bury you. -CAIC

Steamboat & Flatops

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Photo Credit: CAIC

CAIC Summary

A strong winter storm will impact the Steamboat zone starting today. Snowfall has already started and we could see 4 to 7 inches of accumulation by the end of the day. Fortunately winds will be light, so this modest load will not be enough to increase the avalanche danger for today. An additional 3 to 6 inches of snowfall and strengthening northwest winds overnight will change things for tomorrow. You can expect both human-triggered and natural avalanches to become more likely.

The main concern for today remains triggering a Persistent Slab avalanche. You are most likely to trigger this kind of avalanche on near and above treeline slopes facing northwest through northeast to east. Watch for stiffer slabs in cross-loaded gullies, downwind of terrain features, and just below ridge lines. The slabs overlie persistent weak layers composed of early-season snow near the bottom of the snowpack that has become weaker over the last week or two, as well as surface hoar buried during the Veteran’s Day storm. The snowpack is still thin and discontinuous on most slopes. The areas with the deepest snow accumulations are also the most susceptible to triggering an avalanche. Most of the avalanches will be small, but some could be big enough to bury and kill a person.

ersistent weak layers composed of early-season snow near the bottom of the snowpack that has become weaker over the last week or two, as well as surface hoar buried during the Veteran’s Day storm. The snowpack is still thin and discontinuous on most slopes. The areas with the deepest snow accumulations are also the most susceptible to triggering an avalanche. Most of the avalanches will be small, but some could be big enough to bury and kill a person.

The snowpack below treeline remains thin and weak. Shallowly buried rocks and stumps are a greater risk than avalanches in these areas. You can still trigger an avalanche if you find an isolated area where a firm, cohesive slab is resting on the old weaker snow. Avoid traveling in gullies or other terrain traps where even a small avalanche could push you into an obstacle or produce a debris pile deep enough to bury you. 

Front Range

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Photo Credit: CAIC

CAIC Summary

A strong winter storm will impact the front Range zone starting today. Snowfall has already started and we could see 4 to 8 inches of accumulation by the end of the day. Fortunately winds won’t be very strong, so this modest load will not be enough to increase the avalanche danger for today. Small Storm Slab avalanches are possible by this afternoon if we pile up more than 6 inches of snow. An additional 6 to 10 inches of snowfall and strengthening northwest winds overnight will change things for tomorrow. You can expect both human-triggered and natural avalanches to become more likely.

The main concern for today remains triggering a Persistent Slab avalanche. You are most likely to trigger this kind of avalanche on near and above treeline slopes facing northwest through northeast to east. Drifted snow from previous storms has created a patchy slab distribution. Watch for stiffer slabs in cross-loaded gullies, downwind of terrain features, and just below ridge lines. The slabs overlie persistent weak layers composed of early-season snow near the bottom of the snowpack that has become weaker over the last week or two. The snowpack is still thin and discontinuous on most slopes. The areas with the deepest snow accumulations are also the most susceptible to triggering an avalanche. Most of the avalanches will be small, but some could be big enough to bury and kill a person.

The snowpack below treeline remains thin and weak. Shallowly buried rocks and stumps are a greater risk than avalanches in these areas. You can still trigger an avalanche if you find an isolated area where a firm, cohesive slab is resting on the old weaker snow. Avoid traveling in gullies or other terrain traps where even a small avalanche could push you into an obstacle or produce a debris pile deep enough to bury you. 

Sawatch

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Photo Credit: CAIC

CAIC Summary

A strong winter storm will impact the Sawatch zone today. Snowfall has already started and we could see 6+ inches of accumulation by the end of the day. Fortunately winds won’t be very strong, so this modest load will not be enough to increase the avalanche danger for today. Small Storm Slab avalanches are possible by this afternoon if we pile up more than 6 inches of snow. An additional 4 to 7 inches of snowfall and strengthening northwest winds overnight will change things for tomorrow. You can expect both human-triggered and natural avalanches to become more likely.

The main concern for today remains triggering a Persistent Slab avalanche. You are most likely to trigger this kind of avalanche on near and above treeline slopes facing northwest through northeast to east. Drifted snow from previous storms has created a patchy slab distribution. Watch for stiffer slabs in cross-loaded gullies, downwind of terrain features, and just below ridge lines. The slabs overlie persistent weak layers composed of early-season snow near the bottom of the snowpack that has become weaker over the last week or two.The snowpack is still thin and discontinuous on most slopes. The areas with the deepest snow accumulations are also the most susceptible to triggering an avalanche. Most of the avalanches will be small, but some could be big enough to bury and kill a person.

The snowpack below treeline remains thin and weak. Shallowly buried rocks and stumps are a greater risk than avalanches in these areas. You can still trigger an avalanche if you find an isolated area where a firm, cohesive slab is resting on the old weaker snow. Avoid traveling in gullies or other terrain traps where even a small avalanche could push you into an obstacle or produce a debris pile deep enough to bury you. 

Sangre De Cristo

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Photo Credit: CAIC

CAIC Summary

A strong winter storm will impact the Sangre de Cristo zone today. Snowfall has already started and we could see 6+ inches of accumulation by the end of the day. Strong southwest winds will drift this snow into slabs on north and east-acing slopes. Small Wind Slab avalanches are possible on these slopes by this afternoon if we pile up more than 6 inches of snow. An additional 6 to 10 inches of snowfall and strong northwest winds overnight will increase the danger for tomorrow. You can expect both human-triggered and natural avalanches to become more likely.

Like most mountains in Colorado, anticipate finding Persistent Slab avalanche problems on northwest through northeast aspects near and above treeline. The slabs have been formed by wind-drifting, so gullies, downwind of terrain features, and just below ridge lines are likely places to encounter them. The persistent weak layers are made of early-season snow that faceted became weak. In other ranges, the avalanches are breaking at the interface of the faceted snow, or within the facets near the ground. Expect triggered avalanches to be large enough to injure or bury a person. Persistent Slab avalanche will also become more likely during and in the wake of the ongoing storm.

Remember to always carry a shovel, beacon, and probe and nothing substitutes education and experience. Take an avlanche education course and “Know Before You Go!”

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