Avalanche experts examining dangers on wind-loaded slopes | AspenTimes.com

Avalanche experts examining dangers on wind-loaded slopes

Bob BerwynSummit County correspondent

SUMMIT COUNTY – A burly snowpack at the start of the season has already led to a surprising number of avalanches in the local mountains, and experts say they are trying to track down some more details on what may have been an avalanche-caused injury in the backcountry near Montezuma last weekend.”I don’t know if that hazard is still there,” said Ethan Green, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). Green said that, according to preliminary information, someone took a ride and was injured but not buried.Green said there could may still be isolated pockets of avalanche danger high on wind-loaded slopes with northerly aspects.”It’s not a typical November,” Green said, describing the varied weather pattern of recent weeks. Big snows, followed by an intense warm-up even triggered a wet-snow avalanche cycle, he said. Some of the small wet slides around the Eisenhower Tunnel ran all the way to the ground, and if the snow predicted for the next few days arrives, it could set the stage for another period of increased avalanche danger, he added.The Thursday forecast was for snow and snow showers on and off the next few days, but satellite maps and radar images showed only a few small bands of showers along the northern edge of the state.Daily updates of a statewide avalanche safety hotline are tentatively set to begin in mid-November, Green said. By Dec. 1, the Summit County Avalanche Office will begin issuing forecasts and avalanche bulletins for the local mountains, hopefully four times per week, according to Green. A launch of the revamped CAIC website is expected around the same time.The forecasters plan to break down the mountain region into smaller geographic units for more accurate reports, both on the website and in the e-mail and voice bulletins.The local number for the avalanche hotline is (970) 668-0600. The best way to get timely forecasts via e-mail is to join the Friends of the Avalanche Center grassroots support group. The website is http://geosurvey.state.co.us/avalanche/.

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