Snow settles between storms

Avalanche danger milder here than in other northern mountains

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The snowdrifts in the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs settled about 3 inches Tuesday, and avalanche danger was slightly less than the rest of the northern mountains, even as the next pulse of weather energy began to seep into the Yampa Valley.

A snowpack measuring site maintained by the Natural Resources Conservation Service at Dry Lake Campground, near the foot of Buffalo Pass, was showing 49.7 inches of snow Wednesday morning. That measurement was down from 52.7 inches the day before. The water stored in the snow at Dry Lake was 12.6 inches, or 125 percent of the norm for this date.

Temperatures that struggled to get out of the teens Monday grew more moderate by Wednesday to the warmest of the new year, hitting 35 degrees at 1 p.m. By 3 p.m. Wednesday, a steady snow was falling, adding to the snowpack.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported Wednesday that avalanche danger in the backcountry surrounding Steamboat is slightly less than the rest of the northern mountains.

"The Steamboat zone is rated 'moderate' with pockets of 'considerable' near and above timberline, and 'low' with pockets of 'moderate' below timberline," said Nick Logan of the CAIC.

Elsewhere in the northern mountains, avalanche danger is rated considerable with pockets of high danger.

The warmer temperatures and settling snowpack helped to strengthen backcountry conditions, the CAIC is reporting, however weak layers have been detected in the snowpack across Summit County.

The CAIC's Scott Toepfer is urging backcountry travelers to minimize their exposure to risk and not drop their guard.

"Colorado snowpack is notorious for deep failure given the right set of circumstances after a storm cycle like we just saw," Toepfer cautioned. "Expose one person at a time to any avalanche terrain, if for no other reason than it adds less stress to the snowpack. Plus, it is much better to have four people looking for one rather than one person looking for four."

Backcountry safety includes always having escape routes in mind, avoiding slopes with nasty terrain traps, and carrying the right gear, Toepfer said.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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