Storm dumps another 17 at Snowmass |

Storm dumps another 17 at Snowmass

Last night’s storm dumped 17 inches at Snowmass, a foot fell on both Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk picked up 8 inches.

But, while Colorado ski resorts gleefully measure accummulations, the state is already experiencing an unstable snowpack in the backcountry.

Four human-triggered avalanches during the past two weeks, including one near Aspen, prompted the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to start operations early this season.

The forecast center will begin sending weather and snowpack information to its members via email today.

“Accidents are already starting to happen,” said forecaster Scott Toepfer. “If you’re a backcountry user, it’s time to start paying attention.”

One skier received minor injuries when he triggered a slide on Storm Peak, also known as Velocity Basin, near Silverton on Oct. 23. He was swept over a cliff and buried up to his neck, according to reports. A group of skiers across the valley saw the accident, dug him out and helped transport him off the mountain. He was taken to a Durango-area hospital and released.

No one was hurt, but skiers were “within feet” of getting caught the same day when another hard-slab avalanche occurred on “The Battleship” near Ophir Pass. The slide was 500 feet wide, one foot deep and ran 1,000 vertical feet.

Details are sketchy of a third hard-slab slide on Independence Pass, east of Aspen, that occurred on the same weekend, Toepfer said. A skier-triggered avalanche was reported, but no one was caught.

The first slide of the season happened on Oct. 18 on Mt. Sheridan in the Mosquito Range. No one was hurt in the avalanche that was 10 feet wide, almost two feet deep and ran 800 vertical feet to the ground.

With last night’s snowfall, the Aspen Skiing Co. is reporting a 32-inch base at the top of Snowmass, with 17 inches at mid-mountain.

Aspen Mountain also started making snow last night, with 16 guns blasting the FIS World Cup course in preparation for the Women’s Alpine World Cup races on Nov. 26-28.

Snow-making will continue as long as cold temperatures permit, according to the Skico.

Scattered snow showers are possible through today, with little or no accumulation, according to the National Weather Service.

There is another chance of snow on Wednesday night ahead of a warming trend. Temperatures at 8,000 feet are forecast to climb into the mid- to upper-40s by the weekend.

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass are scheduled to open on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, with Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk opening on Saturday, Dec. 11.

(The Summit Daily News contributed to this report.)

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