New snowfall, new danger |

New snowfall, new danger

Aspen Times Staff

The tender slabs are getting thicker and more touchy as snow falls and drifts in the central and southern mountains.

The snowpack does not like rapid change, and heavy snowfall and strong winds are the perfect combination to make the snowpack really grumpy. It was already touchy, and the additional load of new snow may be all it takes to get the snowpack to explode into an avalanche. How grumpy the snowpack gets will depend on how much snow falls and drifts. Grand Mesa, the West Elks and the San Juans will see the fastest and deepest accumulations and therefore the most rapid increase in the avalanche danger. In all the mountains the snow will be showery, and rates and amounts could vary quite a bit, meaning that the avalanche danger could vary considerably as well.

Tender slabs exist in all mountain areas, created by winds and snowfall over the past week. The slabs, or pockets of slabby snow, can be found on most aspects near and above tree line. Below tree line, pockets of drifted snow can be found around terrain features and in clearings. Use extra caution in steep terrain and avoid wind-drifted slopes and gullies. Triggered releases are possible from a distance or from below steep slopes. With a considerable danger climbing toward high, consider carefully where you are, and the terrain around and above. Very good route finding and terrain management is required for safe travel today.

The backcountry avalanche danger rating for the central mountains is considerable near and above tree line on NW-NE-SE-S aspects with pockets of high. Below tree line, the danger is moderate with pockets of considerable. The danger will be increasing where local accumulations of snow exceed 6 inches.

Avalanche danger details provided by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. For more information call 920-1664 or visit

Snowmass picked up 9 new inches in the last 24 hours, while Highlands is boasting 7 fresh inches. Aspen Mountain has 5 new inches up top and Buttermilk picked up 4.

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