Aspen Highlands tops December ’07 powder mark, Ajax just shy | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Highlands tops December ’07 powder mark, Ajax just shy

ASPEN ” What a snow job.

Snowfall at Aspen Highlands in December topped the prodigious amount that fell in December 2007, according to the Aspen Skiing Co.’s measurements. Snowfall at Aspen Mountain fell just shy of the 2007 mark.

At Highlands, 102 inches fell at the top of the mountain last month, compared to 96 inches for the month the prior year. At Aspen Mountain, it was 97 inches this year compared to 98 inches.

Skiing conditions were excellent both months. Skiers and riders were treated to 11 days with 4 or more inches of powder in December 2008 compared to nine days the prior December.

Snowmass and Buttermilk weren’t as close to 2007’s December snowfall amounts. Snowmass set a lofty mark of 118 inches in December 2007. “Only” 96 inches fell for the month in 2008.

At Buttermilk, the comparison was 72 to 84 inches.

The December 2007 powder total was a record at Snowmass but not at any of the other local ski areas, said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.

2007 ended with a flurry of activity. About 20 inches of powder fell between Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2007, Hanle said. This year’s December ended with four dry days, ending the chances of topping the 2007 mark. However, there also were 12 straight days and 14 or 15 days of snow in December 2008, making many residents feel sun starved.

Avalanche experts say the snowpack conditions are odd this winter, creating dangerous conditions in the backcountry.

“The big lurking danger in our snowpack is still those weak layers buried near its base,” said the forecast for the Aspen zone by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. “These will remain unaffected by current weather conditions and a serious problem for backcountry travel.

“A snowy month of December has created a strong middle portion of the snowpack that now has formed a slab resting above these weak layers. That mid-pack strength has resulted in several reports of ‘false-stable’ conditions. This means that you might get high snow pit test scores, or not see the usual signs of instability (such as cracking or collapsing) before triggering an avalanche,” the avalanche information center’s report continued.

The avalanche forecast included this sobering assessment about the potential for deep slab avalanche: “These slides are getting more difficult to trigger but if they do go, chances are they will be large and destructive,” the center said.

More on avalanche conditions can be found online at http://avalanche.state.co.us/index.php.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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