Avalanche conditions rated "high’ | SummitDaily.com

Avalanche conditions rated "high’

SUMMIT COUNTY – Avalanche forecasters have issued an avalanche warning for the northern mountains, including those in Summit County, after another storm dumped 5 to 15 inches of snow in the High Country Tuesday night.

This is the second time this season forecasters have issued a warning for the northern mountains. Summit County received little snowfall in January, but February storms that swept in from the West have dumped snowfall measured in feet throughout the state. That snow, however, has also created unstable conditions in the backcountry.

According to Knox Williams, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) in Boulder, the warning means avalanche danger in the backcountry is rated as “high.” That means natural and human-triggered slides are likely – and some could be large, Williams said.

The warnings are based on a combination of data such as weak snowpack, continued storms with strong winds and cold, prolonged temperatures that keep the snowpack brittle.

Backcountry enthusiasts and avalanche forecasters have reported hundreds of avalanches – both natural and human-triggered – in the backcountry this season. Two people have died in slides in Colorado this year, and another 59 were caught but managed to escape.

Forecaster Nick Logan said CAIC officials rarely discourage people from recreating in the backcountry, but they do encourage people to take an avalanche awareness course.

“Nature gives us good clues that anyone can learn, and then it comes with experience,” he said. “We recommend taking a good avalanche course and then using that information to make your own decisions.”

If recreationists use a good route-finding technique and stay away from steep slopes, they can enjoy backcountry skiing during periods of higher avalanche danger, he said.

Another avalanche warning, in the far northern mountains around Steamboat Springs, is also in effect after more than a foot of snow fell there Monday afternoon. Forecasters also issued a warning for the San Juan mountains.

“With the new snow and expected increased winds, I will expand the warning to cover all the mountains north of a line from Denver to Hoosier Pass to Glenwood Springs,” Knox said. He added that most of the central mountains didn’t get enough snow to warrant an avalanche warning, although areas in the backcountry there are rated as “high.”

Forecasters said winds will increase, causing blowing snow and creating cornices and drifts that could be prone to avalanches.

Thursday’s weather forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies and scattered snow showers with winds from the west at 15 to 25 miles an hour and gusts of up to 50 miles an hour above timberline. High temperatures will range from 15 to 25 degrees.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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