More snow to come, and avalanche danger still considerable |

More snow to come, and avalanche danger still considerable

A Silver Queen Gondola view from earlier in the season on Aspen Mountain. More snow is on the way. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Despite Wednesday’s sunny, warm weather, another winter storm is on the horizon for Aspen.

Snow showers are forecasted to begin Thursday afternoon and will continue through the night, leaving a couple inches of fresh snow on each of the mountains. By Friday morning, there could be 2-8 inches of snow across the mountains, according to OpenSnow.

“The wind direction on Friday, which will be from the west or west-north, often favors Steamboat, Beaver Creek, Powderhorn, the Aspen area, Irwin, and the Telluride and Silverton areas, so these spots will be favored for 3-6+ additional inches on Friday,” Joel Gratz, OpenSnow founding meteorologist, wrote in the Daily Snow report.

On Friday, Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain is forecasted to get 6 inches of fresh snow. Buttermilk is forecasted to get 3 inches, and Snowmass is forecasted to get 7 inches of fresh snow, according to OpenSnow.

“Conditions for Friday’s first chair could range from dust on crust to decent powder,” Gratz wrote.

In the next six to 10 days, Highlands, Ajax, and Snowmass are expected to get at least a foot of snow, while Buttermilk is expected to get about 8 inches.

Avalanche danger

As spring weather approaches, water is introduced to the snowpack, and that affects the weak layers, causing avalanches to break, Colorado Avalanche Information Center Deputy Director and Central Mountains forecaster Brian Lazar said.

Avalanche danger was considerable, or a 3 of 5, on Wednesday, according to the CAIC forecast. The forecast states the most dangerous slopes face northwest through east to southeast near and above the treeline.

“Wednesday’s warm weather will allow lower-elevation snow surfaces to become wet, so in the afternoon, you can trigger loose avalanches. Move off steep slopes once the snow surface becomes sticky, before it becomes slushy,” the forecast reads.

For Thursday, the avalanche danger is down at moderate, or a 2 of 5. A moderate forecast means it is less likely an avalanche will be triggered, but the consequences are the same if one is triggered, Lazar said. The danger above the treeline is back at considerable, or 3 of 5 on Friday.

“Moderate danger doesn’t mean safe. It just means the chances of triggering an avalanche are lower than at a higher danger ratings. But, again, given the snowpack structure, the consequences of (triggering an avalanche) are the same,” he said.

According to the CAIC forecast for Thursday, a large avalanche can be triggered on slopes that face west through north to southeast where weak snow buried three to four feet deep underlies fresh, wind-drifted slabs. Skiers and riders may not see any warning signs before an avalanche breaks, and it is possible multiple people can ride a slope before a weak layer is hit.

Snowfall will increase throughout the day on Thursday, so the CAIC recommends watching for changing conditions from Thursday afternoon through Friday.