Storm cycle drops more than 2 feet of snow at ski area, prompts avalanche warnings

Six Colorado ski areas received a foot or more of snow over the past 72 hours from a storm cycle that prompted avalanche warnings on Tuesday for the central and southern mountains.

Wolf Creek has been the big winner so far with 25 inches. Purgatory and Silverton received 19, Snowmass 13,  Aspen Highlands and Winter Park 12.

Most areas along Interstate 70 and to the north didn’t do as well but still gave skiers reason for excitement. Breckenridge received 11 inches, Steamboat 10, Loveland and Arapahoe Basin 9, Beaver Creek 8, Vail and Eldora 7, Keystone and Copper Mountain 6.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued the avalanche warning for mountains in the Aspen area, the San Juan Range, the Sangre de Cristo Range, the Sawatch Range, the Gunnison area and the Grand Mesa.

“One to two feet of new snow and strong winds created dangerous avalanche conditions,” the CAIC said. “Some avalanches will release naturally and it will be very easy to trigger large avalanches today. Travel in, near, or under avalanche terrain is not recommended.”

For mountains in ranges to the north of the avalanche warning area, including the Front Range, Vail and Summit County, Steamboat and the Flattops, the avalanche danger is rated “Considerable,” the third most dangerous rating on a scale of five. In those areas, according to the CAIC:

“Avalanche conditions are dangerous. You can easily trigger large avalanches on many slopes, especially those facing north through east to southeast. These may break widely, connecting broadly across terrain features. You can trigger these from below, or from a distance away. Many will break near the ground, entraining most of the snowpack. Avoid travel on slopes steeper than about 30 degrees.”

This storm isn’t quite through with Colorado.

“There’s one more wave of moisture on the way,” the CAIC said. “This final pulse of snowfall starts near Steamboat early Tuesday morning and slides southeast across the state through the morning hours following the trough. By the afternoon snowfall rates drop as colder drier air filters across the state on a northwest flow. Tuesday evening a few snow showers linger along the Continental Divide with skies clearing from the west. Wednesday morning dawns clear under a north to northwest flow, with a few clouds building over the northern mountains in the afternoon.”

Four skiers have been killed in Colorado avalanches so far this season, most recently on Saturday in a popular backcountry skiing area between Berthoud Pass and Winter Park. The total for the 2019-2020 season was six.

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