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2014-2015 Colorado Avalanche discussion thread

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I am starting this thread to talk about snow pack conditions in CO (not the Colorado Avalanche hockey team)


Having only lived in Colorado for 3+ years, I'm trying to learn the local weather patterns and see how it impacts the snow stability.


Obviously, there is not much snow on the ground right now, I'd like to get feedback from you avy savvy bears on how this current weather pattern could impact the future snow pack that will develop. When I was at A-Basin Monday, the snow was a "sugar cookie" type, and there was quite a bit of graupel falling. 


I'm no avalanche expert, but can these rapid fluctuations in weather be setting up a very weak base layer for future layers to settle on?

post #2 of 6

There are far better sources of information available in Colorado regarding avalanche awareness and conditions than random assertions on a thread by "avy savvy bears". The best information are daily discussions/predictions of avalanche conditions, forecasts, and weather patterns on the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website (http://avalanche.state.co.us/).  Additionally,avalanche courses are readily available from CMC, REI, and other sources.  For ski instructors, PSIA-RM offers backcountry avalanche courses. Friends of Berthoud Pass offers free introductory avalanche awareness classes on Tuesday evenings around the Front Range (http://berthoudpass.org/schedule/#sthash.v1QBhybJ.dpbs).



post #3 of 6

I'm sort of guessing @skiNEwhere was thinking of a supplement to those places, not a replacement. Sort of like the boys over at TGR have a CO discussion thread in The Slide Zone. Lots of the info that comes through it must be taken with a grain of salt, but it can add context and variety to official CAIC reporting.


You can get very localized, very up-to-the-minute information from it at times that provides further depth than the CAIC site can. You shouldn't use it as a replacement, but if CAIC is saying "moderate" and mags on TGR are showing photos of fractures, scary pits, and small slides at the place you're headed it is very useful trip planning info.


It is also a useful place for discussion of events, how people ended up in slides, known problem areas that may not be always recognized (that turn out on the East side of Loveland Pass that caught a few very experienced back country travelers since the second you step off the road you're in a slide path) etc etc etc. 

post #4 of 6

Agreed. I'd rather have an overabundance of data that I can then sift for information.

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
I figured people can post some of the conditions they've observed, with some snowpit pics as well breaking down each of the Layers. Like the poster above stated, I think the more info, the better.

I'd also like to get people's input on how this seasons volatile temps have the potential to affect the snowpack, as I'm not familiar with this precedent.
post #6 of 6

Good article in the Summit Daily today about how the lack of early season snowfall is a good thing, but we need to beware of deep-slab avalanches later in the season on the north facing slopes that are holding snow right now.



CAIC avalanche forecasters say late snow could mean more stable snowpack


While a mild fall may have led to a slow start to ski season for area resorts, Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecasters said it could actually be good news for backcountry travel this season.

“What you want it do is start snowing and not stop,” CAIC director Ethan Greene said. “Having snow-free mountains right now is not a bad thing for us.”

Deputy director Brian Lazaar agreed. “From my perspective, we’d rather see a delayed start.”

In each of the last two seasons, Colorado has seen early snows followed by longer dry spells, the result being a weak base layer in the snowpack that made slopes vulnerable to large, less predictable deep-slab avalanches later in the winter.

When snow is followed by a longer dryer spell it will create a similar weak layer. Then any snow that piles on top of it will be increasingly susceptible to a slide. Having that layer at the very bottom of the snowpack can create trouble throughout a season as it did the past two winters. A lack of early-season snow, therefore, could mean a more stable snowpack later in the season.


While there may not be a direct correlation, Colorado exceeded its season average of six avalanche fatalities in each of the last two winters. The state reported eight last season and 11 the previous year. Colorado also annually accounts for one-third of avalanche fatalities nationwide.

Rest of article here: http://www.summitdaily.com/news/13593003-113/season-snow-avalanche-backcountry


The webcam image from the top of Union Peak at Copper show a great example of what they are talking about:




You can see the north facing Tucker Mountain on the right is holding snow, so it's going to be more at risk of deep-slab avalanches.  The south facing side of Union Peak (aka Copper Bowl) at the same elevation in the foreground has all melted off, so it will be safer.   The west facing Ten Mile Range in the background is holding snow, but only at much higher elevations.  I believe those peaks are more in the 13,000-14,000 range, where Tucker and Union top out around 12,400.

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