Avalanche danger in the backcountry surrounding Steamboat Springs generally is moderate, but forecasters are keeping a close watch on a storm system in the eastern Pacific. The latest front is expected to bring increasing snowfall Friday and Saturday.
"It's too far out for details now, but if it holds together with the current potential for moisture and winds, this storm could tip the balance on backcountry slopes that are building weak layers and slabs," said avalanche forecaster Nick Logan of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center on Wednesday.
Logan said 22 avalanches were reported in the Colorado backcountry on Wednesday -- none of them within the boundaries of ski areas. The snow slides were mostly near timberline and 1 to 3 inches deep. They took place on slopes that faced from north to southeast, with the exception of one slide on a west-facing slope in the San Juan Mountains. That slide was below timberline and triggered by a skier.
Logan rates the avalanche danger primarily "low" in the northern mountains of Colorado below the tree line, with some pockets of moderate danger. The risk of a snow slide increases to moderate with pockets of considerable danger at and above timberline. The avalanche danger could be revised upward, depending upon the results of the next snowstorm, Logan said.
"Barring a breakdown in the new snow and winds forecast in the next few days, we'll likely see an increase in the backcountry danger ever further and see the avalanche cycle we've been waiting for," Logan said.
Backcountry travelers are advised to be very wary of slopes steeper than 35 degrees.
The snowpack in the Yampa River Basin continues to range above 100 percent of average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Snow depth on the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass was 44.7 inches Wednesday, up 6.7 inches from the day before. The moisture stored in that snow, commonly referred to as snowpack by the NRCS, is 11.3 inches, compared with the average 9.8 inches. That converts to 115 percent of average. Snowpack at Whiskey Park in extreme north Routt County is 123 percent of normal at 13.4 inches.
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