State’s snowpack remains ripe for avalanches | AspenTimes.com

State’s snowpack remains ripe for avalanches

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen CO Colorado
Courtesy of the CAICA deadly avalanche near the Snowmass Ski Area measured was 15 feet wide and covered 40 vertical feet.
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BOULDER, Colo. – The snowpack is so unstable in the Aspen area and throughout the Colorado mountains right now that backcountry travelers can trigger avalanches from flat terrain, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The avalanche danger was rated as “considerable” Monday – down from “high” on Sunday. However, human-triggered avalanches remain likely and natural slides are still possible, the center said. It issued a special advisory that is in effect until noon Tuesday.

“Triggering avalanches remotely and from low angle or even flat terrain is likely,” wrote Brian Lazar, of the Boulder-based avalanche information center. “Be very wary near or below any avalanche terrain, and keep in mind that even small slides can bury and kill you.”

A small slide Wednesday killed Snowmass Village resident Keith Ames on Burnt Mountain, sidecountry adjacent to the Snowmass ski area. Ames, 43, was the first person killed by an avalanche in Colorado this winter. Since then, a 13-year-old boy was killed by an avalanche while skiing in a closed area at Vail Mountain and a 28-year-old man perished in a slide on Winter Park Ski Resort’s Mary Jane Mountain.

Ames was skiing Burnt Mountain with two others. He followed the other skiers down a steep slope and got caught in avalanche debris from one of his peers, according to an avalanche information center report.

“While struggling to extricate himself, he triggered a soft slab, which came down from above and buried him,” the center’s report said. “The avalanche was very small, but the debris was funneled into the narrow gully, which allowed a small amount of snow to pile up deeply enough to bury the victim.”

The other skiers were uninjured.

Saturday’s snowstorm dumped as much as 20 inches of snow on the mountains around Aspen. The new snow accumulated on a very weak foundation. Numerous natural slides were reported Sunday.

The avalanche information center said careful terrain selection is essential to traveling in the backcountry.

“If you do not possess these skills, it is a good day to avoid backcountry travel,” the report said.

Triggered and natural avalanches have the potential to be large and destructive, taking all the snow in their tracks.

“They may run much larger than you are expecting,” the center said.

The report is updated daily at http://avalanche.state.co.us.


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