Avalanche center elevates risk to ’high’ for Aspen zone due to snowstorm

Avalanche watch issued through 9 a.m. Thursday

An avalanche watch has been issued for the Aspen area until 7 a.m. Thursday because of heavy snowfall expected starting Wednesday morning.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued the avalanche watch for the Aspen and Gunnison zones. The avalanche rating is expected to climb from “considerable,” 3 on a scale of 5, to high, a 4 out of 5, on Wednesday at all elevations.

“On Wednesday, expect strong west-southwest winds and heavy snowfall to increase the avalanche danger to HIGH by late afternoon or early evening,” the avalanche center said in an announcement issued at 3 p.m. Tuesday. “Large and dangerous avalanches will be easy to trigger and some will run naturally during periods of intense snowfall. Avoid traveling on or underneath avalanche terrain by later Wednesday afternoon.”

An observer checks out the slabs of a recent remotely triggered avalanche on Huntsman Ridge, north of McClure Pass.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center/courtesy photo

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for a large swath of the Central Mountains that includes the Aspen area. Between 6 and 12 inches of snow is expected to hit slopes higher than 8,000 feet in elevation between 6 a.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m. Thursday, according to the weather service. Higher accumulations could be possible in localized areas. In addition, winds are forecast to gust as high as 50 mph at higher elevations.

The snow loading on top of weak layers will add threats to an already dangerous condition in the mountains surrounding Aspen. The avalanche center’s website reported that observers submitted reports on around 200 avalanches in the Central Mountains “in the last few days, 24 of which were human-triggered.” While no accidents were reported in the Central Mountains, three people from Eagle were missing and presumed dead in an avalanche in southwestern Colorado from a slide that hit Monday.


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