All of Colorado’s high country is experiencing avalanche danger, and this weekend it is particularly hazardous.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CIAC) has issued an Avalanche Watch running through Saturday night for the Aspen, Flat Top, Grand Mesa, Gunnison and Steamboat regions. The watch expires at 8 p.m. Saturday, with conditions posted as a four on a one-to-five danger scale for Saturday.
There is also a Special Avalanche Advisory in effect for all of the mountains of Colorado through Monday. Avalanche conditions are unusual and may become very dangerous as storms impact the hills.
“Heavy snowfall and strong winds will create sensitive avalanche conditions,” Bo Torrey from CAIC said. “Large natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely in the Central Mountains.”
This year’s snowpack’s main problem is a persistent slab on much of the Centennial State’s slopes. Persistent weak layers can continue to produce avalanches for days, weeks or even months, making them especially dangerous and tricky. CAIC says avalanches of this type occur when a cohesive layer of soft to hard snow, a slab, is in the middle to upper snowpack. All it takes is the bond to an underlying persistent weak layer breaking.
“Avalanche conditions are changing throughout the Northern Mountains,” Keston Rohring from CAIC said. “Heavy snowfall, mainly centered in the Steamboat/Flat Tops will likely be measured in feet by Sunday. The Front Range and Vail/Summit won’t do as well, but the snowpack in these two zones has proven not to need much to make things sketchy. Combine these factors with a busy holiday weekend, and look out!”
The 2020-21 season has caught 12 people in avalanches and killed eight. Four deaths have occurred in the past two weeks.