Breckenridge Ski Resort avalanche speaker series concludes Thursday | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge Ski Resort avalanche speaker series concludes Thursday

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@summitdaily.com
Michele Koss of Wildernest uses an ice axe and crampons to bootpack up the main chute on Black Mountain, near Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, earlier this month. With spring conditions come spring avalanche concerns. Breckenridge Resort will host their final avalanche speaker series event this Thursday. Spring snowpack will be among the topics. Breck patroller Stuss Leeds will also share his experiences as an avalanche technician in Chile last summer.
Dave Gidley / Special to the Daily |

The Breckenridge Ski Patrol Public Avalanche Series will conclude on Thursday with the final presentation of the season. The four-part speaker series, a collaboration between Breckenridge Ski Resort and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, includes a variety of backcountry topics and is free to the public.

Thursday’s talk will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Ten Mile Room at the Village in Breckenridge. The presentation will include a discussion of spring snowpack concerns with Breckenridge patroller Andy Lapkass, as well as a talk on avalanche forecasting in the mountains of Chile by fellow patroller Stuss Leeds.

“Spring avalanche safety can get brushed off a little bit,” CAIC deputy director Brian Lazar said, discussing the need for community outreach programs like the speaker series. “Getting our message out is of critical importance.”

While the snowpack is generally more stable and predictable in the springtime, it also presents a unique set of challenges.

“People are pushing into more consequential terrain,” Lazar explained. “It may be relatively more stable but we have periods of instability.”

As temperatures warm, wet slab or loose wet slides become more prevalent. Prior to this week’s colder weather, Summit County had seen a number of wet slab slides and loose wet avalanches.

This week’s cold spell should slow that threat, but new snow in the forecast could bring wind slab avalanches back into the picture.

“It’s going to be more winter-like,” Lazar said of the forecast through the weekend, adding that warm-weather avalanche conditions are likely to return next week.

The general rule of thumb with spring travel is to ski in the morning after an overnight freeze. Slides become more likely with warm afternoon temperatures in spring.

“Get off before it gets too warm,” Lazar suggested. “You want to be through your suspect areas while they’re still frozen.”

Thursday’s talk will elaborate on these concerns and include open discussion.

“It’s a great time to ask questions about our spring snowpack,” Breckenridge spokeswoman Kristin Petitt Stewart said. “It’ll be good for the community to hear how we approach conditions.”

The second portion of Thursday’s talk will feature a presentation by Breckenridge patroller Stuss Leeds. Leeds spent last summer as an avalanche technician for a mining company in Chile. He will share his experiences and discuss the unique challenges presented in the South American snowpack.

“He’ll have some cool insight into his experience last summer,” Stewart said. “I think we’re really lucky. It’s a byproduct of having a patrol with global experience. They have a variety of knowledge and experience that they bring.”

Thursday’s talk will include free pizza and a cash bar.


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