Avalanche forecasters watching recent wind slabs in Colorado mountains, including Buffalo Pass

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— The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is cautioning that the Park Range near Steamboat Springs is one of the mountain ranges where avalanche danger could be considerable right now.

The avalanche center has yet to begin its daily reports about the potential for avalanches in different regions of the Colorado Rockies; however, one avalanche forecaster notes that the high winds that accompanied new snowfall Nov. 16 and 17 created potentially dangerous slabs sitting atop a weak layer of snow near the ground.

“The strong winds have drifted snow into extensive slabs that can appear very hard and strong. They are resting on top of fragile, faceted snow near the ground,” the Avalanche Center’s Spencer Logan wrote late Sunday afternoon. “The problem exists statewide, but the largest avalanches are most likely in portions of the state with the deepest snowpack: the Northern San Juan Mountains, northern Front Range, and the Buffalo Pass area near Steamboat.”

One of the biggest avalanches in the state within the past few days was far south of Steamboat on Wolf Creek Pass. An eye-opening photograph was posted by the Avalanche Center, which has not received any field reports of snow slides in the mountains of Routt County.

The depth of the standing snow at the Tower measuring site stands at 34 inches, according to a remote snow measuring device operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Rabbit Ears Pass, at the 9,400-foot level, received about 7 inches of snow Nov. 15 to 17, according to the NRCS, and based on reports from skiers, it was much colder snow than what fell in the valley.

A variety of weather forecasters are trying right now to interpret the impacts of a storm track expected to reach the West Coast on Wednesday before splitting into two tracks. One is expected to travel along the Canadian border and the second to track further south. The cutoff low has the potential to send cold northern air into Colorado while the southern track spins waves of precipitation into Colorado, but to some extent, it’s a game of wait and see.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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