Snowpack lessens avalanche danger

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A weeklong break from consistent snowfall was scheduled to end this weekend, but the brief respite allowed the snowpack to settle and avalanche danger to subside.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction was forecasting 3 to 5 inches of snow overnight Friday in the upper Yampa Basin, followed by another 3 to 5 inches Saturday night.

Before a wide low-pressure system entered the region Friday night, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center was rating avalanche danger in the Northern mountains as "low" below tree line, and "moderate" at and above tree line.

Yet, skiers in Fish Creek Canyon on Thursday were reminded of the danger in the backcountry when they spotted avalanche paths.

The Weather Service was forecasting that the winds would pick up to between 15 and 25 mph Saturday night as the probability of snow rose to 70 percent. The wind holds the potential to transport snow onto leeward, or downwind, slopes and create shallow slab build-up.

Snow depth on the Contin--ental Divide at Buffalo Pass had settled more than 10 inches since Jan. 20, according to remote sensing devices maintained by the Natural Resources Conservation Ser--vice. The depth of the snow was 122.7 inches Jan. 20 and stood at 112.3 inches Friday. The water stored in the snow on Buffalo Pass accounted for 125 percent of average precipitation. The snow on Rabbit Ears Pass was not as deep, but the snowpack there is 150 percent of average.

Throughout the Yampa and White river basins, snowpack is above average. At the Elk River measuring site in North Routt, the snow depth Friday was 39.4 inches, down from 44.5 inches a week earlier. Still, the snowpack there at 8,700 feet elevation was 116 percent of average.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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