Summit County under avalanche warning | SummitDaily.com

Summit County under avalanche warning

BOB BERWYN
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Fresh snow, high winds and a mixed-bag of old crusts, brittle slabs and unstable sugar snow have combined to form a perfect recipe for dangerous slides in the mountains of Summit County and surrounding areas.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche warning for the area. The avalanche danger is rated as ‘high’ on all aspects near or above treeline, and forecasters are expecting a natural avalanche cycle. Backcountry travelers would likely trigger slides on avalanche-prone terrain, so the word from the experts is to completely avoid avalanche paths and run-out zones.

At the Summit County office, forecaster Brad Sawtell said the team is expecting the worst and agreed to sleep with their cell phones the next few nights in case of a call.

“I’m concerned about the weekend,” Sawtell said, explaining that, with expected blue skies on Sunday, powders-seekers will be out in full force.

The Loveland Pass area has long been an area of special concern, both from a standpoint terrain and snowpack, as well because of the heavy backcountry traffic. Similar to the deadly Peak 7 slide in 1987, there is potential for a skier or boarder higher up on a slope to trigger a slide that could bury others below.

“If this snow cycle keeps up, somebody is going to die in avalanche here soon,” said Dan Burnett, a local search and rescue mission leader. “The depth hoar is intense right now. You go out in the backcountry and poke around with your pole and it’s all just slabs and sugar snow. With any loading, things are going to rip,” he said, characterizing the unstable snowpack and comparing current conditions to the snowpack in 1987, when the Peak 7 slide killed four skiers.

Slides in the new snow from recent days could easily step down into older layers and gather strength to form large killer avalanches, the forecasters warned.

Check in with the CAIC hotline for the latest at (970) 668-0600, or at http://avalanche.state.co.us/.


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