New snowfall raises avalanche danger | AspenTimes.com

New snowfall raises avalanche danger

Bob Berwin
Summit County correspondent

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Almost two feet of new snow fell on some of the most-favored spots in the mountains over the weekend, boosting the snowpack at resorts but also increasing the avalanche risk in the backcountry.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported one natural soft slab slide from the Loveland Pass area Saturday, as well as another natural release near Peak 6, in the Tenmile Range and a small skier-triggered slide just east of the Eisenhower Tunnel in Dry Gulch Sunday.

Ski patrollers at A-Basin were also blasting slide-prone slopes Sunday around the Norway chairlift, raising hopes for some additional terrain openings.

Avalanche forecasters warned of pockets of unstable conditions in many mountain areas Sunday, with the potential for both natural and triggered avalanches growing as more than a foot of additional snow is expected through Monday night.

Slopes and gullies on north to east to even southeast aspects are most suspect, forecasters said, adding that any leeward slope with wind-drifted snow could be loaded with ready-to-slide slabs. Slopes with enough snow for decent skiing are the same ones that potentially have enough snow to slide. With north winds expected to increase with the incoming storm system, slab conditions could even start to form on south aspects.

“It was great riding out there,” Lara Ivchenka said Sunday morning after making a run down the east side of Loveland Pass. “The snow was soft, and really deep in some spots in the trees. A couple of times it started kind of sloughing away. That was a little scary,” she said. “My friends said it was okay. They wanted to ride here because they said it would be too crowded at Loveland [Ski Area]. But I don’t think I’m going to ride again,” she said.

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Ivchenka and her friends carried none of the standard avalanche safety and rescue gear recommended by experts ” including beacons, shovels or probe poles ” illustrating a disturbing trend revealed last season, when U.S. Forest Service snow rangers, ski patrollers and other avalanche experts conducted a one-day outreach program at Loveland Pass. They found that less than one-half of the people riding at Loveland Pass were equipped with the lifesaving gear.

Earlier this month, a snowboarder died after being buried in a slide at Berthoud Pass. It took rescuers several hours to find the buried victim, who reportedly left his avalanche beacon in his car.

The avalanche center is resuming full operations with daily updates via the web and a telephone hotline this morning. The easiest way to get the information is to join the Friends of the Avalanche Center grassroots support network and have twice-daily bulletins e-mailed straight to your desktop at the premium membership level.

For weather forecasts, avalanche bulletins and information on the Friends of the Avalanche Center, go to: geosurvey.state.co.us/avalanche

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