Avalanche danger "high’ | SummitDaily.com

Avalanche danger "high’

SUMMIT COUNTY – Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) forecasters issued an avalanche warning for the Tenmile and Gore ranges after a storm brought more than 2 feet of snow to the High Country.

According to CAIC director Knox Williams, the avalanche danger in the backcountry around Summit County and Vail is “high,” meaning natural and triggered avalanches are “likely” to “certain.”

“I think we’re setting ourselves up for a widespread avalanche cycle,” Williams said. “The one big kicker is that they’re calling for a substantial increase in winds this afternoon and overnight. If that happens, we’re going to build slab in a heartbeat.”

White-out conditions prevented avalanche forecasters from accessing the backcountry Tuesday to evaluate snow conditions.

As of Tuesday morning, avalanche forecasters knew of one slide, in the sixth of the Seven Sisters on Loveland Pass. The slide closed the pass, Williams said. Closing the pass also keeps would-be backcountry skiers away from some of the dangerous chutes and steep slopes along the pass.

“I’m kind of glad Loveland Pass is closed,” Williams said Tuesday morning. “It postpones the inevitability of people getting caught in slides today. But tomorrow could be really touchy. When snow gets this deep, you almost have to go steep.”

However, more snow is forecast, and that could change conditions again.

Snow plow operators along Berthoud Pass are triggering numerous slides by tossing snow from the road onto the unsteady snowpack below, Williams said. Most of those are shallow releases, meaning only about the top foot of the 2 feet that has fallen so far is sliding.

Williams welcomes the snow, however.

“We’re going to look back and really like this storm,” he said. “There’s so much water in it. This is what we need to replenish our reservoirs.”

According to Williams, the snow that’s blanketed Summit County has from 1.5 to 2 inches of water in every 2 feet of snow. For example, he said, Arapahoe Basin had received 19 inches of new snow by 6 a.m. Tuesday, and in that was 1.25 inches of water. Williams said that’s normal.

Today’s forecast is for partly cloudy skies and high winds.

“I think things will quiet down on the west end of Summit County and Vail,” he said. “That’s where the lower snow amounts are going to be. We might get a breather.”

Other forecasters say they expect another snowstorm to blow through the area Thursday.

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

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