Colorado avalanche advisory warns of ‘unusually destructive’ slides after storm | AspenTimes.com

Colorado avalanche advisory warns of ‘unusually destructive’ slides after storm

Staff reports

After an overnight spring storm left more than a foot of snow in the mountains around Aspen and central Colorado, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche warning for all day Sunday into Monday morning.

The advisory, which warns of “unusually destructive” slides because of the heavy, wet snow,  includes the Elk and West Elk mountains, the Ruby Range and the Basalt, Red Table and Hardscrabble mountains. The warning, which goes until 6 a.m. Monday, says avalanche danger is at a level 4 of 5 near and above treeline.

According to the CAIC warning: “An unusually wet and warm weather system has produced very dangerous avalanche conditions in the Aspen and Gunnison zones. Large and very large natural and triggered avalanches are likely at all elevations. These may involve wet snow or fresh slabs of new and drifted snow, and they may break on old weak layers buried deep in the snowpack or near the ground. All slides have the potential to entrain dense, wet snow and be unusually destructive.”

Snow and rain have hit areas above 11,000 feet for the past two days and 1 to 2 feet of snow has fallen, setting up “highly abnormal” conditions, according to the CAIC forecast.

“The avalanches may break in unfamiliar ways or in strange places, or with few of the typical signs of instability. The usual tricks may not be enough to keep you out of trouble. If you venture into the backcountry, set wide and strict margins for safety,” the warning states.

According to the bulletin from the National Weather Service, “rain, snow and strong westerly winds will overload the snowpack and result in large natural and human-triggered avalanches in many areas.”

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Heavy rain soaked Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley all night, and the area ski resorts picked up a foot of snow in some places.

Sunday is closing day at Aspen Highlands, which reported 12 inches overnight, and Buttermilk, which had 2 inches. Aspen (9 inches overnight) and Snowmass (12 inches) close for the season on April 15.