As weather warms, wet slide on Buffalo Mountain forewarns avalanche danger |

As weather warms, wet slide on Buffalo Mountain forewarns avalanche danger

What appears to be a natural wet-slab avalanche is visible on the east face of the main cirque of Buffalo Mountain on Monday.
Phil Constantine via Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest forecast from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

DILLON — A naturally occurring wet slab avalanche on Buffalo Mountain early this week hinted at the lurking danger in Summit County’s snowpack as weather warms.

On Monday, Paul Torcoletti submitted an observation of the wet-slab slide with a southeast aspect in the area of Buffalo Mountain’s iconic main cirque.

With no tracks in the area, Torcoletti submitted the avalanche with a relative-size scale classification of R2 and a destructive-size score of D2.5. Each scale goes from 1-5, with 5 being the largest. He submitted the observation as an unknown trigger, though it appeared to be naturally triggered.

Summit County Rescue Group spokesman Charles Pitman agreed with that assessment as the group had yet to receive a call or page about any incidents.

That said, Pitman cautioned that even if the trigger was natural, it’s a sign the snowpack is suspect with warming weather — wisdom to heed with unseasonably high temperatures forecast for Summit County later in the week.

“I was walking up around (the Buffalo Mountain trailhead parking area) a couple of days ago, and there were as many as 20 people up there,” Pitman said. “Sometimes when it’s warm enough, (avalanches) can break on their own, and that’s the reason why skiers need to be up there fairly early. If they sink 2-3 inches, if they hear water below the snow, that’s a bad sign.”

As of Tuesday evening, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center rated the avalanche risk as considerable in Colorado’s northern mountains, which includes the Gore Range where Buffalo Mountain is located.

“In the next couple of days, people will have to use a lot of caution going into those couloirs,” Pitman said about Buffalo Mountain.

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