March weather, avalanche conditions ‘unprecedented’ in Aspen |

March weather, avalanche conditions ‘unprecedented’ in Aspen

Aspen Ski Patrol members were up early Thursday morning doing avalanche control work on Aspen Mountain. The slide pictured here created a pile of snow at the entrance to Kleenex Corner.
Mike Britt/Aspen Ski Patrol |

Large portions of Aspen Mountain were closed Thursday morning as ski patrollers worked hard to make the terrain safe after several days of unseasonable weather.

The weather patterns and conditions on Aspen Mountain this week are “unprecedented,” Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said Thursday. Warm temperatures and sunshine created avalanche concerns earlier in the week, while the rain and snow that fell Wednesday and early Thursday morning added to the problem.

Hanle said ski patrol knew that with the warm temperatures and rain, combined with weak overnight freezes, would create a large workload for them.

“The teams were up early (Thursday) doing control work. They brought down some significant activity into Spar and Copper,” Hanle said. “We had to shut down the lower half of the mountain.”

By late morning, top-to-bottom skiing was only open on the west side of the mountain via Lift 1A or Ruthie’s.

“It’s been a very challenging and unique set of circumstances,” Hanle said. “Some of the patrolmen are saying they haven’t seen anything like this in a while.”

Water has infiltrated the snowpack and persistent weak layers, according to Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecaster Brian Lazar’s Thursday morning forecast discussion for the Aspen zone. Those layers can “reawaken” when they get wet for the first time, he wrote.

“This helps explain all wet avalanche activity we’ve seen in the last couple/few days,” the forecast discussion said.

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