Snow, wind lift avalanche danger level

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The avalanche danger in the wake of this week's April Fools' Day dump is considerable at all points of the compass, according to forecasters at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

"A large load of snow and moderate winds drifted into sensitive wind slabs," in the Steamboat zone, Simon Trautman wrote in an Internet report. "Human-triggered avalanches are probable on heavily drifted or cross-loaded slopes."

The Avalanche Information Center describes cross-loaded slopes as chutes in gullies that experienced wind blowing across them in a perpendicular fashion. That pattern causes drifting snow to deposit in the chutes.

Although the danger is rated considerable at all elevations, it could be less at lower elevations that were scoured by the wind and did not experience slab conditions, Trautman said.

He wrote that westerly winds during the preceding week have been strong enough to drift sow into dense slabs on open slopes. The biggest avalanche problem results from several of these slabs stacked on top of a crust that developed during a melt-freeze cycle during the middle of March, he added.

Steamboat Springs-based avalanche expert Art Judson said poor visibility has made it difficult to venture into the field and observe avalanche activity.

Judson said a visitor to his snow stake on Buffalo Pass on Tuesday recorded a depth of 137 inches.

The Avalanche Information Center expects the next snowstorm to begin across the Rocky Mountains in Colorado this morning and intensify this afternoon.

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