Avalanche danger high

Wet snow over weekend creates instability in the snowpack

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— After rising steadily the past several days, the avalanche danger in Steamboat Springs has reached a peak.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche warning for the Steamboat zone through Tuesday. Backcountry users in Routt County are being advised to avoid steep slopes, and that human-triggered avalanches are likely.

"Heavy snow and wind have caused the avalanche danger to rise to high," states the warning from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center in Boulder. "Dangerous avalanche conditions exist throughout the zone, with the highest danger on the northern end of the Park Range. Backcountry travelers should avoid traveling on or under steep slopes. Natural and human triggered avalanches are likely."

Wet snowfall over the weekend, on top of a weak snowpack, created avalanche-prone conditions.

"The snowpack is warm at low elevations. Boot penetration deeper than 6 inches into wet snow is a big warning sign. Avoid steep slopes and terrain traps at low elevations if you encounter sloppy snow," according to the warning.

Steamboat and the surrounding area also are expected to receive between 10 and 20 inches of snow by Tuesday morning.

Bryon Lawrence, a forecaster with the National Weather Service's Grand Junction forecast office, said a slow-moving storm is crossing Northwest Colorado today and tonight. A winter storm warning is in effect until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

"We're expecting the snow to pick up again this afternoon and be heavy at times, and it's looking like it's going to continue through tonight," he said.

Lawrence said weather will be windy at higher elevations with about the same amount of snowfall, making travel over Rabbit Ears Pass potentially dangerous.

Temperatures today are expected to peak in the 20s, with lows tonight dipping below zero.

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