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Storm could bring a dumping

ASPEN ” Aspen and Snowmass could receive more than a foot of snow Tuesday night and Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Five to 7 inches have fallen at Aspen, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass over the past 48 hours, but more significant amounts are on the way, says the weather-forecasting agency.

The Elk Mountains, which surround local ski resorts, are under a winter storm warning, in effect from noon Tuesday to 6 a.m. on Thursday. Skies were growing overcast at noon Tuesday in Aspen, and snowfall is expected to develop, becoming heavy Tuesday night, according to the weather service.



Nine to 17 inches of new snow is expected, with locally higher accumulations, mainly on northwest-facing slopes. Gusty southwest to northwest winds will create areas of blowing and drifting snow over higher, exposed terrain.

The winter storm warming means significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice are expected, making travel hazardous or impossible, according to the weather service.




Heavy snow and high winds are also likely to heighten the backcountry avalanche danger, which could make a scheduled presentation Wednesday on the condition of the snowpack particularly timely.

Tuesday’s forecast from the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center rates the area avalanche danger as considerable at and above treeline, and moderate below treeline. According to the center’s report, the Snowmass Ski Patrol reported soft-slab avalanches resulting from control work at and above treeline during the past couple of days. Three skier-triggered avalanches last weekend occurred on northeast to southeast aspects near and below treeline.

Says the center: “With more snow and wind in the forecast, one concern for [Tuesday] will be the potential for shallow soft slab avalanches occurring at the interface of new and old snow. This new snow is sitting on top of older wind slabs and crusts with underlying facets. Even more problematic are these deeper instabilities within the old snow layers. Many of the recent skier-triggered avalanches have been running on the interface between old wind slabs and facets that are now 2 to 3 feet below the snow surface.”

Wednesday’s presentation on spring avalanche conditions will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Aspen’s Rio Grande meeting room (in the old youth center, next to the jail and above The Grill Next Door.) Ann Mellick of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center will review the basics of spring snowpack, key signs of instability and human factors that contribute to avalanches, along with the latest in local avalanche conditions and forecasts. It will be hosted by PowderToThePeople.org and the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center.

In addition, Michael Sladdin, executive director of PowderToThePeople.org, will provide an update on the Richmond Ridge Beacon Basin at the top of Aspen Mountain, where backcountry enthusiasts can practice using their transceivers to locate beacons buried in the snow park. The talk will also touch on the White River National Forest Travel Management Plan Supplemental EIS, due out this spring.

Space for the free talk is limited so RSVP to rsvp@PowderToThePeople.org, or call 920-3890.

For local avalanche reports, go to http://www.rfavalanche.org. Statewide road conditions are available at http://www.cotrip.org.


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