Avalanche avoidance | AspenTimes.com

Avalanche avoidance

Allyn Harvey

This from yesterday’s avalanche report in The Aspen Times:

“The backcountry avalanche danger rating of considerable, with areas of high danger, will remain due to blowing snow at high elevations.

“Backcountry travelers should use extra caution on any slope greater than 30 degrees and probably avoid terrain near 35 degrees or steeper on all elevations and aspects.”

Think about that. The avalanche experts are recommending that all backcountry travelers stay off slopes that are 35 degrees or steeper, no matter where they are in the backcountry. Above treeline and below treeline. On west-facing slopes and on east-facing slopes. No matter where it is, if it’s steep, stay away.

If you want to learn how to avoid avalanches ” and the operative word here is “avoid” ” then show up this weekend for the community avalanche seminar put on by Mountain Rescue Aspen.

This is the 26th year that Mountain Rescue Aspen has put on the workshop. It costs $25 and is open to all who show up Friday night at the St. Regis Hotel.

Registration for the two-day seminar is from 6 to 6:30 Friday night, followed by a three-hour class. Most of Saturday is filled with field studies on the backside of Aspen Mountain. The seminar ends with a group problem back at the St. Regis.

Attendance Friday is required for anyone who wants to go along Saturday. There is no preregistration, simply show up Friday.

For those who prefer to stay in-bounds, 35 degree-plus slopes are as safe as anywhere else, at least in terms of avalanches. The cold temperatures continue to dry out the snow on all four mountains, which keeps the crud from being too cruddy and the snow squeaking under your skis.

The bases on all four mountains are on the decline, but only because all that snow that fell last week is settling.

At Buttermilk, the base Tuesday was 41 inches, down from 42 Monday. At Aspen Mountain, the base dipped 2 inches to 48. At Snowmass, the base is down 4 inches at 63. And at Aspen Highlands the 65 inches measured yesterday is down from 68.