Avalanche expert: Dig that snowpit

Aspen Times writer

Editor’s note: Throughout the winter, The Aspen Times provides daily reports about backcountry conditions from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Although most resorts in Colorado have closed for the season, there is still plenty of snow in the backcountry and plenty of people skiing and snowboarding it. As a reminder to keep safe, we are publishing yesterday’s dispatch from the CAIC.

Scattered snow showers are predicted to be a little more numerous in the northern and central mountains than the southern mountains

Moderate northwest winds and clouds are keeping temperatures cold at high elevations. A pattern of zonal flow and a very weak wave will bring increased snow showers to the northern and central mountains this afternoon and tonight.

On Wednesday another weak wave will move into northwest Colorado and bring more snow showers that will favor the northern and central mountains.

No slides have been reported today. And no thawing at all today at high elevations. Wet avalanches are no longer a concern. Northerly aspects above tree line remain winterlike. Light blowing snow has continued today, especially in the Front Range and 10 Mile Range.

As we head into a period of light snow that will favor the northern and central mountains … and enough wind for light blowing snow, let’s watch snowfall totals into Friday. There will likely be enough new snow and blowing snow for triggered soft-slab releases, especially in the northern mountains and perhaps in the central mountains.

We are still concerned with deep instabilities lurking at the higher elevations on the more northerly aspects. Triggered hard slabs are still a threat on steep NW-N-NE aspects near and above timberline, especially in the Front Range, Mosquito Range, and Sawatch Range where the snow cover is shallow.

Use normal cautions in the backcountry, and be prepared for a variety of instability situations … wet snow only at low elevations … soft slabs caused by blowing snow near and above tree line and those hard-to-detect hard slabs on high-elevation, north-facing aspects especially in the Front Range and Sawatch.

To see what hard slab is sitting on, dig a snowpit.


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