Jim Payne looked as if he didn't want to acknowledge the "Let it Snow" sign on the front of the Johnny B. Good's diner Monday afternoon as he made his way through a lightly falling snow in downtown Steamboat Springs to pay his electric bill. The latest winter storm has dropped more than 30 inches of snow at the top of the Steamboat Ski Area during the past three days.

Photo by John F. Russell

Jim Payne looked as if he didn't want to acknowledge the "Let it Snow" sign on the front of the Johnny B. Good's diner Monday afternoon as he made his way through a lightly falling snow in downtown Steamboat Springs to pay his electric bill. The latest winter storm has dropped more than 30 inches of snow at the top of the Steamboat Ski Area during the past three days.

Avalanche danger reaches peak

Snow accumulation of 10 to 20 inches expected by morning

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For more information, visit the Colorado Avalanche Information Center Web site at http://avalanche....> and the National Weather Service Web site at http://forecast.w...>

After increasing 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 today. 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 during 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 this morning.

Bryon Lawrence, a forecaster with the National Weather Service's Grand Junction forecast office, said a slow-moving storm was expected to move across Northwest Colorado on Monday night.

"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," Lawrence said Monday afternoon.

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 upper teens, with lows tonight dipping below zero.

The Steamboat Ski Area has been the beneficiary of nearly 3 feet of snow since the weekend. January's monthly total is up to 88 inches, and the season-to-date total is 228 inches.

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

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