Avalanche danger low, wet slides still a threat
Ryan Summerlin April 9, 2012
With the warm, sunny weather in Colorado’s High Country comes a lower risk of avalanche danger, but we’re not in the clear yet.
“Deep persistent slabs remain a concern on high elevation shady slopes and some wet activity is possible by late in the day,” the latest report for the Vail and Summit County zone reads.
Low overnight temperatures and cool daytime air with moderate winds minimizes the threat of wet avalanches, though there are some pockets of danger, primarily on steep, shady slopes near and above treeline. The cool nighttime temperatures refreezes the snowpack overnight. Meanwhile, daytime temperatures are “unseasonably warm,” making wet avalanche activity the main concern.
Danger is low in the zone on all aspects and elevations, though officials say to “watch for wet, unstable snow if the snowpack warms more than expected.”
“Each night the surface snow freezes, but during the day, the surface crust begins to melt and the danger from wet avalanches increases,” officials with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center say. “As daytime temperatures rise, wet-loose avalanches will initiate around thin snow and rocky areas. They usually start small, but get larger as they move down the slope. The debris is thick and heavy, and once you’re caught in the flow it can be very hard to get out. These wet, slough avalanches can be dangerous if they push you off of a cliff or into a tree or gully. Watch for roller balls and small, loose avalanches. If you see these signs or you’re sinking into wet snow more than 6 or 8 inches, it is time to get off of and out from under steep, sun-exposed slopes.”
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has switched to spring operations, in which weather forecasts will be issued twice a day through April 30.
Statewide avalanche statements will be released three times weekly on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays by 5 p.m., likely continuing through the end of April. If conditions warrant, those statewide statements will continue into early May. If conditions change radically for the worse, special statements, avalanche watches and warnings will be issued.
The center still accepts condition observations through its website at http://avalanche.state.co.us.
Current weather forecasts call for some moisture to come through the state by mid-week, but largely missing the Vail and Summit County zone. Another low-pressure system is expected to come through the state late in the week, bringing slightly cooler temperatures but no moisture.