Avalanche danger high for Aspen area | AspenTimes.com

Avalanche danger high for Aspen area

ASPEN ” Area avalanche danger is in the red zone.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an avalanche warning for the mountains surrounding Aspen on Monday morning. After a weekend storm dumped more than two feet of new snow on local mountains, the avalanche danger is high on all aspects and at all elevations, the CAIC reported with its updated Monday forecast. The high rating is denoted in red on the CAIC website.

The warning will probably be lifted Tuesday unless area mountains get another dumping of snow, accompanied by windy conditions, said Scott Toepfer, CAIC forecaster at the center’s Boulder headquarters. Whether Tuesday’s rating remains at an all-around high, though, depends on what forecasters see in the field on Monday.

For now, Toepfer recommended hitting the slopes inbounds while the backcountry snowpack settles.

Says his Monday report for the Aspen zone: “We have gotten lots of avalanche activity reports. So many in fact, I am having a hard time keeping up on all of it. Observers are reporting a tender and reactive snowpack. People coming out of huts are reporting that they are watching natural activity as they try to get back to their cars. Snow workers are reporting a reactive snowpack even in areas they have been hammering for awhile. For me, this says I would rather not be in the backcountry. You will get a lot more bang for your buck at the [ski] areas.”

Most of western Colorado, south of Interstate 70, garnered a high avalanche danger rating Monday; the CAIC rating for the Gunnison zone, however, is extreme.

It’s a rare rating issued by CAIC when conditions are extremely hazardous, Toepfer said. The center’s Gunnison zone observer reported avalanche activity that was visible from the highway between Gunnison and Crested Butte ” areas that rarely hold enough snow to slide, Toepfer said. There have also been slides on Kebler Pass outside Crested Butte, he said.

An extreme rating means “you really develop the potential to have some very large, destructive avalanches run,” Toepfer said.

The extreme rating is the first issued this winter by the CAIC, he added. The rating for the Gunnison zone may be downgraded to high by Monday evening, Toepfer said.

An avalanche warning was also in effect Monday for both the northern and southern San Juan zones, where the danger was rated high on all aspects and at all elevations.

The rating on the Grand Mesa outside of Grand Junction is high on north, east and southeast aspects at all elevations and considerable on all other aspects and elevations, according to Monday’s CAIC report. Highway 65 over the Grand Mesa, between Powderhorn and Cedar Edge, was closed Monday due to adverse conditions, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Avalanche ratings Monday were also high for certain aspects in the Sawatch zone, which includes Leadville.

More moderate ratings were posted Monday for the Vail/Summit zone and the Steamboat/Parks Range zone.

Go to http://avalanche.state.co.us/ for the CAIC’s statewide report.

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