Avalanche danger expected to be ‘high’ by Saturday, weather service predicts | AspenTimes.com

Avalanche danger expected to be ‘high’ by Saturday, weather service predicts

Staff reports

Colorado Avalanche Information Center is warning that backcountry travel could be dangerous this weekend with the winter storm expected overnight Friday.

If you are thinking about going into the backcountry this weekend, the weather and avalanche forecasters said Friday that might not be a good idea.

With a winter storm warning in place for the areas around Aspen and Snowmass and most of the central Colorado mountains, the National Weather Service in partnership with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said Friday morning the avalanche danger “could increase to high (level 4) on Saturday.”

Level 4 warning means backcountry skiers should not go into avalanche-prone areas.

The winter storm warning is calling for up to 16 inches or more at higher elevations and winds gusting to 50 mph into Sunday morning. That, combined with the 3 to 6 inches that fell in some parts of the mountains, suggests very dangerous conditions.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said Friday the new snow “fell onto a variety of old snow surfaces including loose weak snow on shady and sheltered slopes, crusts on sunny sunny slopes, and hard wind-sculpted slabs in the alpine.”

Brian Lazar of the CAIC reported Friday that “overnight winds blew strong from the west. Fresh slabs now rest on many high-elevation slopes that face north to east through south. These slabs are deepest and most destructive in the western portions of the Aspen and Gunnison zones.”

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The CAIC warns that slabs will be thickest and most dangerous “in freshly wind-loaded terrain on lee east-facing slopes below ridgelines and in cross-loaded terrain features. … Stick to slopes less than around 35 degrees or to sheltered terrain to reduce your risk.”

According to the National Weather Service, the affected areas could include the Park Range, Elk Head Mountains, Rabbit Ears Pass, Flat Top Mountains, Medicine Bow Mountains, Never Summer Mountains, Front Range, Indian Peaks, Williams Fork Mountains, Ten Mile Range, Gore Range, Elk Mountains, Basalt, Red Table, and Hardscrabble Mountains, Ruby Range, West Elk Mountains, Mosquito Range, and Sawatch Range.

For updated information through the weekend go to the CAIC’s website at avalanche.state.co.us.

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