Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Steamboat Springs The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued a "low" avalanche danger rating Tuesday for much of the backcountry surrounding Steamboat Springs. But there also is evidence that snow slides are possible.
Dale Atkins of the information center reported that observers near Steamboat have detected "waist deep depth hoar" -- a sign of weakening snowpack -- on north-facing slopes near Steamboat.
Still, Atkins said, avalanche danger in the Steamboat zone is low, with pockets of moderate danger above 8,500 feet.
Atkins' report refers only to the backcountry and not the slopes within the boundary of the Steamboat Ski Area. Snow slides are a rarity at the ski area, and the professional ski patrol undertakes avalanche control measures when conditions warrant.
Elsewhere in the northern mountains, the CAIC is rating the danger moderate on all slopes. Atkins said two natural slab avalanches released at 12,000 feet south of Aspen Highlands on Monday. How they were triggered is unknown. On Tuesday afternoon, the Loveland Ski Patrol used explosives to trigger one hard slab avalanche from an east-facing slope at 12,700 feet, Atkins said.
"Observers in most mountain areas report a snow cover that is weak and growing weaker," Atkins said.
The northern mountains can expect several bouts of light snow through Thursday, and that snowfall should do little to change the avalanche forecast, Atkins said. However, the low temperatures associated with the storms will further weaken the snow cover.
"This will cause future problems, but for now, normal cautions are adequate for backcountry travel," Atkins said.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center operates under the auspices of the Colorado Geological Survey and depends in part on donations to fund its operations.
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