With all this early season snow in Colorado, backcountry enthusiasts are already out skiing the high peaks in droves. With all that backcountry traffic, there’s been a flood of observations and accident reports.
Luckily, nobody has been seriously hurt thus far. The closest calls involved a team of ski tourers in the Crested Butte region along with a full burial that happened just outside the boundary of Aspen Mountain.
“As loading continues, natural activity remains on the table and the sensitivity to human trigger will still be likely.” – CAIC
Those zones (*Crested Butte, Aspen) are “teetering on the edge” of a large avalanche event, said CAIC in their latest report.
State Of The Snowpack 12-5-18
Avalanche danger is slowly easing as we move away from our last big storm event. This can be a deceptive transition because conditions are still dangerous, particularly in portions of the Central and Southern Mountains from the Aspen zone south to the North San Juan zone. These areas picked up the most recent storm snow, and consequently saw the most recent avalanche activity. Fresh avalanches continued into yesterday, as this image is of a large natural avalanche in the Ruby Range shows.
This avalanche occurred coincident with an uptick in wind and drifting snow. There is still plenty of loose surface snow out there, and winds look strong enough to drift more of it today. Small amounts of drifting snow can seem innocuous, but if it goes on for a while it can really load lee slopes and terrain features. Watch for drifting snow along ridgelines and in cross-loaded features in the coming days.
This avalanche from Fooses Creek near Monarch Pass is a good example of a suspect terrain feature. As recent activity illustrates, this seemingly modest loading can make avalanches easy to trigger. We will need to see this continued loading taper off before the avalanche hazard really eases in this heightened areas. Observations are critical to our forecasts, so please tell us what you’re seeing out there. You can submit an observation here.
Find the avalanche bulletin for your region here: Colorado Avalanche Information Center