Winter storm warning overnight issued for Colorado high country, spurs avalanche concerns |

Winter storm warning overnight issued for Colorado high country, spurs avalanche concerns

Aspen Times staff report

A winter storm warning calling for heavy snow above 9,000 feet has been issued for areas in the central and western Colorado mountains, including the Elk and West Elk mountains around Aspen, according to the National Weather Service.

The warning, which is in place overnight starting at 9 p.m. Saturday, calls for up to 20 inches in some higher-elevation locations.

The storm also has triggered an avalanche watch in the backcountry with conditions expected to worsen by Sunday morning.

NWS forecasters predict “snow accumulations of 8 to 16 inches, with localized amounts up to 20 inches, are expected. Greatest accumulations will be above 10,000 feet, with lesser amounts below.”

Mountain areas also in the winter storm warning include: Elkhead, Park, Gore, Sawatch and the Flat Tops.

The NWS office in Grand Junction said in Saturday’s warning, which ends at 9 a.m. Sunday, that “snow will remain above 10,000 feet this evening before dropping with the cold front after midnight, with accumulating heavy wet snow down to 9,000 feet.”

The weather service said travel will be difficult in areas as winds will gust as high as 45 mph, causing patchy, blowing and drifting snow.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center on Saturday issued an avalanche watch for much of Colorado’s backcountry.

“Heavy snow, strong winds, and rain beginning late Saturday afternoon will result in dangerous avalanche conditions becoming very dangerous into Sunday,” CAIC forecaster Jason Konigsberg predicted Saturday. “A natural avalanche cycle will likely occur after sunset today. Be aware of these unusual conditions, watch for rapidly changing conditions, and be ready to end backcountry activities early today. It may be necessary to avoid all avalanche terrain by late afternoon.”