Avalanche danger 'considerable'

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— The avalanche danger in the mountainous backcountry surrounding Steamboat Springs has grown from "moderate" to "considerable" in the span of three days.

The latest snowstorm and the wind associated with it have much to do with the increase in the danger rating since Jan. 3, said Scott Toepfer of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

"The newly fallen and wind-drifted snow is piling up on a recently developed weak layer of surface snow," Toepfer said. "It will be critical to watch for a point where new snow overwhelms the strength of the older, underlying snow."

That change could come rapidly, Toepfer said, and backcountry travelers should watch for cracking in the snowpack and subtle "whumpfing" sounds.

A danger rating of considerable in the nomenclature of the Avalanche Center means human-triggered slides are probable. The danger rating applies to all points of the compass and all elevations, Toepfer said. However, he said the likelihood of a skier or snowmobiler triggering an avalanche increases in some locations.

"The most likely place for you to trigger a slide will be on steep, wind-loaded slopes with north, northeast, east and southeast aspects," Toepfer said.

The greatest danger lies buried deep in the snowpack, he said. There are weak snow layers near the ground, and additional snow could add sufficient weight to release slides that involve the entire winter's snowpack.

A chance of snow is forecast for the Steamboat Springs area for the remainder of the week.

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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