Where there’s snow, there could be avys
April 30, 2012
A brief wave of moisture rolled through the mountains late last week, bringing cooler temperatures and, in some cases, rain, to the mountains.
Storm slab avalanches in the new snow layer or at the new/old snow interface were the primary concern following the storm, but officials didn’t expect the new storm and wind-slab avalanches to be a problem for long. Temperatures warmed over the weekend, again increasing chances for wet avalanches.
There’s still snow out there, and the temperature fluctuations should be tended to when traveling the backcountry. The best way to gauge the danger is to look at the overnight low temperatures to ensure snow refroze, start early and end a tour before the day gets too warm. Also, watch for small, wet avalanches as they indicate larger avalanches are possible.
Be wary of areas with wind drifts deeper than about two feet, officials warn, because that new slab is resting on an old, icy surface that presents danger. Direct sun on the new layers can also make it easier to trigger avalanches in the surface snow.
According to a report from Colorado Avalanche Information Center director Ethan Greene: “In some areas, the new snow fell onto moist or even wet layers. If the new snow layer is thick enough, it can insulate the wet snow layers and limit the overnight freeze. Wet snow is weak snow, so poke down to see how wet the sub-surface layers are. If you find wet snow, then dangerous avalanches that break into the old snow layers are possible,”
This season, seven were killed in avalanches, 11 were buried and 19 were caught. The latest reported avalanche incident was a month ago on Ophir Pass between Silverton and Telluride.