Avalanche danger in the red zone | AspenTimes.com
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Avalanche danger in the red zone

Janet Urquhart
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” An avalanche warning was issued Wednesday for the backcountry surrounding Aspen, where a winter storm pushed the slide danger to high on all aspects, at all elevations, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The CAIC has yet to rate conditions as extreme this winter, so the all-encompassing high rating ” signified by the color red on the center’s rating chart ” indicates conditions are as sketchy as they’ve been all season, according to John Snook, a forecaster with the center.

The warning was also issued in the Steamboat Springs, Gunnison and northern San Juan Mountains zones.

The CAIC may drop the high rating for areas below treeline later today, but continuing high avalanche danger at and above treeline means natural and human-triggered slides are likely. For now, backcountry enthusiasts in the mountains around Aspen should stick to slopes of no more than 25 degrees, Snook advised.

“We do expect the weather to get warm this weekend. People will be getting out there. We want to get the word out there that it’s dangerous,” he said.

Before this week’s storm rolled into Colorado, the CAIC rated the avalanche danger in the Aspen zone as moderate at lower elevations and considerable at higher elevations.

The Roaring Fork Avalanche Center also boosted its danger rating for area mountains from moderate/considerable on Wednesday to high at and above treeline and considerable below treeline on Thursday.

Says the Roaring Fork center’s Thursday report: “Snowmass patrol reported some explosive triggered avalanches yesterday on east aspects near and above treeline. These avalanches average 1-3 feet at the crown. Up to 34 inches of storm snow around the valley in the last couple days and increasing west and northwest winds in the forecast today will make both natural and human triggered avalanches likely near and above treeline today.

“Travel in or near avalanche terrain is not recommended today. Be very aware of any steeper terrain around your group. The safest travel today will be on low angle terrain without steeper slopes above.”

For local avalanche reports, go to http://www.rfavalanche.org. The CAIC website is at http://avalanche.state.co.us/ and links to both site are available at http://www.aspentimes.com/backcountry.


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