Aspen in a deep freeze |

Aspen in a deep freeze

Janet Urquhart

Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Aspen is in the grips of a deep freeze after Friday night’s snow deposited more than a foot of freshies on local slopes and heightened avalanche risk in the backcountry.

The lure of fresh powder resulted in several skier-triggered avalanches in the Aspen-area backcountry over the weekend, according to the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center.

While the recent snows have bonded well with old surfaces in the backcountry, several weak layers buried beneath the snowfall of an early January storm have led to skier-triggered soft slabs, collapses, and cracking and gliding, according to the local avalanche center, which rated avalanche risk as considerable at all elevations on Sunday and again Monday.

Several new avalanches have been reported since Saturday, including a remote, skier-triggered avalanche on a southeast aspect of Highlands Ridge at about 11,800 feet that was big enough to be deadly, according to the avalanche center. No injuries were reported. There were also two skier-triggered avalanches Saturday on Richmond Ridge, off the back of Aspen Mountain, on east aspects at about 10,000 feet. The ridge apparently proved itself a worthy classroom for Aspen Mountain Rescue’s annual avalanche workshop, which took place there Saturday.

Incidently, local backcountry advocacy group Powder to the People will host a midseason avalanche update on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Rio Grande meeting room, featuring local avalanche forecaster Brian McCall.

Monday’s avalanche center report advises: “The avalanche danger will remain considerable for today. Use extra caution around steep rolls and terrain traps. In treeline and above treeline terrain, be leery of previously wind-loaded areas that may be disguised by the new snow. Don’t be blinded by seemingly well-bonded new snow layers ” our areas of most concern now are buried deeper in the snowpack ” investigate carefully.”

Meanwhile, frigid temperatures that swept in on the heels of the fresh snow may discourage venturing into the backcountry ” or even out the front door ” for the next day or two.

Saturday’s relatively balmy temperatures, with a high in the 20s, plummeted overnight; Sunday’s high was 11 degrees. Sunday night’s low was minus 18, according to the National Weather Service.

Local slopes were boasting 2 to 3 inches of new snow over the past 24 hours, according to Monday’s 5:30 a.m. snow report from the Aspen Skiing Co. In the past 48 hours, 5 to 6 inches of new snow fell on top of Friday night’s bountiful dumping, but only the most intrepid skiers and boarders were venturing out first thing Monday morning.

Monday’s forecast for Aspen/Snowmass is bundle-up weather. Highs of 5 to 15 are forecast, and lows Monday night are expected to drop to 15 to 25 below zero, according to the weather service.

Highs Tuesday will inch up to 10 to 20 degrees under mostly sunny skies, with overnight temperatures Tuesday of 5 to 15 below.

Wednesday’s forecast includes a 20 percent chance of snow, with highs of 10 to 20.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is