Shale Bluffs snowslides shut down Hwy. 82 near Aspen
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
ASPEN ” A series of small snowslides shut down portions of Highway 82 through Shale Bluffs near Aspen on Friday, but no cars were struck by the snow and rocks.
The first of the slides occurred at approximately 11 a.m. about midway through the canyon beneath the bluffs, and it deposited a pile of snow as deep as 2 feet and as wide as 15 to 20 feet.
Another slide in the early afternoon, around 1:30 p.m., also blocked a lane of the road, said Pitkin County Patrol Supervisor Jeff Lumsden. No injuries were reported
“We have this problem just about every year,” Lumsden said. “Usually it waits until late February or early March.”
But a combination of warm temperatures and heavy, moist snow has destabilized the snow on the steep sides of the bluffs, forcing clumps of snow to break off, he said. The snow behind those clumps then cascades down the hillside and over the protective barriers onto the highway.
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“It can be nasty,” Lumsden said of the Shale Bluffs slides, recalling once when a slide came down in front of his patrol car. He stopped to direct traffic, he said, and watched as a second slide hit his cruiser.
Lumsden said Friday he had also heard of an avalanche that brought snow and rocks down onto Highway 133, near the Penny Hot Springs just north of Redstone.
“It’s all moving,” he said, urging back country skiers and snowmobilers to use extra caution over the coming week due to the possibility of avalanches.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center listed the avalanche danger as “considerable” on northern, northeastern, eastern and southeastern slopes, and “moderate” on all other aspects.
“Wet loose avalanches are possible at low elevations,” the CAIC website stated. “Deep human triggered avalanches are possible in the right location, and these slides have the potential to be very destructive.”
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