Recent snowfall increases avalanche risk in Steamboat zone

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— Steamboat's recent snowfall has created dangerous backcountry conditions.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an avalanche warning Monday morning for the Steamboat and Flat Tops Zone because of heavy snowfall and wind.

While Steamboat Ski Area saw 5 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours, measurements from the Tower and Zirkel SNOTEL sites indicated there could be 1 to 2 feet of new snow, according to the CAIC.

“If you are out there with a ruler this morning, your measurements may indicate quite less, and this illustrates how fast this new snow is settling into storm slabs,” the CAIC warning stated. “Although wind speeds have lessened in the last 24 hours, they remain sufficient to drift snow into wind slabs.”

Human-triggered and natural avalanches are likely on all steep slopes, the warning states.

Storm slabs can stabilize a few days after the storm while persistent slabs can last for weeks and be triggered remotely and easily.

“Persistent and deep persistent slab avalanches remain a scary problem,” according to the CAIC website. “There are multiple persistent weak layers in the middle and bottom of the snowpack.”

Some of these weak layers have strengthened while others remain weak, according to the CAIC, but all are more sensitive because of the recent snowfall.

The avalanche warning is set to expire Tuesday afternoon, when Steamboat’s forecast shows a short reprieve from snow, according to the National Weather Service.

Mike Weissbluth, of SnowAlarm, wrote Sunday that snow showers should end Tuesday morning but that the mountain might see light snow in the afternoon.

Weissbluth wrote that temperatures will warm Wednesday in advance of another possible multi-day storm.

The National Weather Service forecast for Steamboat shows highs in the 30s for the rest of the week.

Snow should continue through Saturday, according to Weissbluth.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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